Health Food and Remedies Retailer Leads Big Russian Decoupling

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The likelihood of British health food and natural remedies retailer Holland & Barrett being caught up in global events would, before last week, be described as ‘slim’ at best.

The company opened in 1870 and has grown to become Europe’s largest retailer of health and wellness products, offering vitamins and supplements, natural beauty products, active nutrition and “free” foods. , with stores in the UK, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. .

Yet here we are, in unprecedented times as the great Russian retail decoupling gains momentum.

Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman quit the board of the company that owns Holland & Barrett this morning after being placed on a sanctions list by the European Union.

His private equity firm Letter One bought the retailer – best known as a popular seller of vitamins and supplements on high streets and malls – from rival buyout group Carlyle for $2.4 billion in 2017.

However, he and his business partner Petr Aven have now resigned from the board of Letter One, which is chaired by banker Lord Mervyn Davies, a former British Labor government minister.

Billionaire Fridman and Aven created the company in 2013 after selling their stake in the oil group TNK-BP to Rosneft for $13.4 billion. The pair still own nearly 50% of LetterOne.

For its part, Holland & Barrett said: “We are not affected by any sanctions, nor do we expect to be.”

Fridman added to sanctions list

On Monday, the EU added Fridman to its sanctions list following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, describing him as “a top Russian financier and facilitator of Putin’s inner circle”, while ‘Aven has been described as one of Putin’s “closest oligarchs” by the EU.

As a result, the EU froze his assets in member countries and banned him from traveling within the bloc. Fridman said he was shocked by the allegations and would dispute them.

Fridman and Aven added that they would “vigorously and by all means at their disposal challenge the spurious and unfounded basis for the imposition of these sanctions.”

The news comes after a backlash on Twitter over Holland & Barrett’s Russian ownership, with numerous posters threatening to boycott the retailer.

The news comes as many companies are ‘decoupling’ from Russia, including, from the retail world, Asos, Boohoo, Adidas, Nike

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Apple

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and H&M, with more likely to follow as reputational damage from being associated with Russia increases among consumers.

This week, Russian e-commerce giant Ozon saw its shares suspended on the Nasdaq, with its stock market value plummeting.

Holland & Barrett’s global expansion

The move comes at a time of rapid expansion for Holland & Barrett, which in January signed a new partnership to open stores in Greece, Romania and Bulgaria.

The health and beauty retailer has partnered with the FOURLIS Group, which already operates stores in these territories for brands such as IKEA, Intersport and Athlete’s Foot. It aims to open 120 Holland & Barrett stores over time, with the first outlets and a Holland & Barrett website to be launched simultaneously this year.

Holland & Barrett’s commercial director, Alex Dower, said at the time: “H&B is rapidly becoming a truly global brand, with H&B products available in stores and online in 18 countries around the world, and more are planned for the future.

Holland & Barrett also acquired home beauty services company Blow late last year. The Blow app serves customers across London, South East England, Birmingham and Manchester, offering a range of beauty services.

The company has 1,600 stores worldwide, including nearly 900 in foreign markets, and employs more than 7,000 people. Its largest store areas outside the UK are Hong Kong, India and the Netherlands. It has no stores in Russia.

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