Russian e-commerce booms despite economic doldrums

MOSCOW (AFP) – Moscow photographer Galina Goryushina said that online shopping has changed her life.

“I’ve got more time for myself,” said the 30-year-old freelancer.

“I don’t have to haul heavy shopping bags. And I don’t waste money on silly knick-knacks laid out on the store shelves,” said Goryushina.

The young woman began shopping online a decade ago when she could not find clothes she liked in Russia and now makes most of her pur-chases online.

Russia may be a latecomer to the world of online shopping but e-commerce is experiencing explosive growth in the country despite a stagnant economy weighed down by Western sanctions.

Russia’s economic growth stood at just 0.7 per cent in the first six months of 2019.

Over the same period, the Russian e-commerce market has expanded by 26 per cent to RUB725 billion (USD11.3 billion), according to a study by Data Insight, a Russian-based research agency.

The sector is developing rapidly despite numerous logistical challenges in the world’s largest country including an often unreliable postal service.

Long distances and low population density make e-commerce an appealing – and sometimes even the only – option in Russia.

Even in affluent Moscow, where shopping malls offer a huge variety of consumer goods, many prefer to shop online to avoid the ubiquitous traffic jams.

One of Russia’s biggest online retailers, Ozon, began as an online bookstore – much like the global giant Amazon – and later expanded into other types of merchandise.

On a recent tour of Ozon’s offices in Moscow’s business district, chief executive Alexander Shulgin said the potential for growth in Russia was enormous.