Pro-military symbols adorn shop windows of western brands in Moscow

(Reuters) – Salvatore Ferragamo and De Beers branded stores were decked out with pro-military symbols to mark Russia’s annual Victory Day parade on Monday, demonstrating how little control high-end retailers have over how their goods are sold in the country.

Franchise agreements mean Russian partners continue to sell the merchandise, despite many major multinational retailers saying they would stop or suspend trading in Russia after Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Russia has long been a market for luxury goods firms in Moscow and there has been no noticeable change in shopping habits in recent weeks.

Salvatore Ferragamo’s store on Stoleshnikov Alley, a pedestrianised shopping street a stone’s throw from the Bolshoi Theatre, displayed decorations in the orange and black of the St. George ribbon widely worn by Kremlin supporters.

The ribbon, first introduced as an honour by Catherine the Great, has gained significance in the Russian-speaking world since separatists in eastern Ukraine adopted it as a symbol of their support for Russia in 2014.

Ferragamo’s stores are run on a franchise basis by Russian luxury goods retailer Jamilco. Jamilco did not respond to requests for comment.

A member of staff in Ferragamo’s flagship Moscow store said deliveries of new collections had stopped, but the franchise model meant the branch could remain open.

Ferragamo said on LinkedIn on March 11 that it “does not own or operate any retail store in Russia, nor does it control the operations of third-party distributors who sell its products”.

The Italian company added that it had stopped all shipments to Russia since the end of February. Ferragamo did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Other luxury goods outlets displaying similar decorations included De Beers, whose store is also operated by a franchise partner. De Beers, which is owned by Anglo American, has said it will stop shipping goods to it.

De Beers did not respond to requests for comment.

The St. George ribbon does not necessarily equate to direct support for Russia’s current action in Ukraine, but is part of wider remembrance of the colossal human loss of life the Soviet Union suffered during World War Two, which is known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War.

However, Moldova’s pro-Western parliament passed a law last month banning Russian military symbols and included the ribbon on the former Soviet state’s list.

(Reporting by Matt Scuffham and Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Alexander Smith)