Harvey Nichols goes east to tap Russian shopping revolution

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The Independent Online

Harvey Nichols may open a branch in Moscow after identifying a new wave of Russian "big spenders".

Harvey Nichols may open a branch in Moscow after identifying a new wave of Russian "big spenders".

The luxury department store, whose flagship branch is in Knightsbridge, London, is keen to attract rich Russians, who have vast amounts of disposable income and a passion for luxury and designer goods.

Harvey Nichols confirmed that two board members had been to Moscow to research the possibility of a new store. Joseph Wan, the chief executive, said: "We would like to explore options for expansion, but there is no tangible project in place at present."

Such is the demand by Russian consumers at the Knightsbridge store that it has taken on Russian-speaking staff members. Management is also considering providing basic Russian lessons to members of staff on the shop floor to accommodate the growing number of Russians who come to London for mammoth shopping sprees.

Richard Gray, the store's media manager, said Russian visitors were proving to be the "new big spenders" of the decade. "The Russians are to the noughties what the Japanese were to the nineties, what the Arabs were to the eighties. The new wave of high spenders coming in to London from Russia is, I think, unprecedented," he said.

"They do not come to Britain to see the sights. They come to shop, and they pay in cash. The way they spend is interesting. There are women who come in with pages from Russian Vogue and when they shop for the latest handbag, they buy seven. There is a hunger and passion for the latest thing," he added.

Last year, Britain was the biggest foreign investor in Russia. Fourteen years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia's love affair with all things Western has shown no signs of abating.

Moscow is plastered with colourful advertising hoardings and the country boasts more billionaires than anywhere other than America, with returns that are said to easily outstrip those in booming China.

The British fashion house Burberry has two stores in Moscow and Bhs operates a successful franchise from the city. Rolls-Royce has an impressive showroom near the Kremlin and boutiques selling designer British clothing are doing a roaring trade.

Harriet Quick, fashion features editor at Vogue magazine, said a new generation of Russian women who were incredibly rich and wanted to "shop, shop, shop", had given Moscow increasing credibility among fashion designers and retailers, many of whom were opening stores in the capital city.

"It has not been long since perestroika and it could be the excitement of the new. There was a huge amount of wealth that came through industrial privatisation and Russian money is driving not only through fashion and retail but through property, nightlife, and restaurants," she said.

The Russian edition of Vogue has taken on the British journalist Sophia Neophitou as its fashion editor and Ms Quick said it had gained in stature, with a stronger presence at international collections. "The magazine is a fashion hotspot," she added.

There are currently five Harvey Nichols department stores in Britain - London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Edinburgh - as well as a store in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. New shops are scheduled to open in Hong Kong, Dubai and Dublin next year.

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