Decathlon, the French sportswear retailer, has halted Russian operations despite months of pressure. This was due to difficult supply conditions resulting from international sanctions on Ukraine’s war. The Mulliez family and their Association Familiale Mulliez, a billionaire French retail mogul, own the company. It is the world’s largest retailer of sporting goods. According to Wall Street Journal, Decathlon’s 60 physical stores and the Russian online shop, which account for only 2 percent of its total revenue, will be affected by this decision.
Auchan, a big-box supermarket/department store hybrid, is also owned by the Mulliez family. Leroy Merlin, a home and garden chain, was also mentioned in Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s March 23 speech to the French Parliament. He said, through a translator, that values are more important than profits and that humans are more valuable than profits as a plea for French companies to abandon the Russian market. “We need more than oxygen. We need to act together and put pressure on Russia to make them seek peace.”
Officials from Ukraine called for the boycott of Mulliez-owned companies
Decathlon was subject to calls for boycott via social media, as well as a briefly distributed denial of service attack (DDoS), against their website by Anonymous, a self-proclaimed “hacktivist” group. Anonymous, a decentralized movement that targets governments and organizations under the banner of political or social causes, has resurfaced in an attempt to attack the Russian leadership and any potential sympathizers. The hackers also managed to hack the Russian Central Bank and the Russian state television station. Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, had criticized Auchan on Monday and Decathlon o Twitter, insinuating that they wanted to boycott the sports goods company. Kuleba stated that job losses in Russia were more important than losing life in Ukraine. It is not clear if his words had an effect on the company’s decision.
Europe’s Rush for Survival Gear
Decathlon should remain closed in Russia, as Decathlon is experiencing an increase in sales in other countries due to the war’s unintended consequences. Reuters reports in Europe that Europeans stock up on survival gear, as the conflict spreads uncertainty and unease.
People are also stocking up to donate items to refugees. According to Deutsche Welle, Decathlon noticed a rise in demand for sleeping bags, and other camping products, as Germany now has approximately 300,000 Ukrainian refugees registered.
Decathlon published a statement on its website stating that it has a solidarity unit in Poland that distributes its donated equipment and products to local non-governmental organizations. A 1 million euro fund was also mentioned by Decathlon to help the affected people. This may include their own 125 Ukrainian employees who work in their stores in Kyiv and Odesa. The company has pledged to support them.