Spar’s plan to open 30 stores in Russia over the next three years has been dismissed as overly ambitious by local retailers and commentators. “Budget supermarkets that can set low prices thanks to high turnover are undoubtedly profitable in Russia,” according to Andrei Myasnikov, director for strategic and marketing research at Modern Business Technologies. “However, the franchise system in the retail business has, to this day, never worked in Russia. In general, it is impossible to impose a strict management hierarchy,” he told the Moscow Times. The symbol group tried to enter the Russian market a couple of years ago when its Finnish division opened five stores in St Petersburg. But these soon closed down. Oleg Bakun, Spar Russia’s executive director, said this was partly due to “criminal conditions in the city” ­ and he claimed this time round, things would be different. Bakun added: “Spar arrived unofficially back then, whereas now the Russian division has a general licence from the company’s central office.” He said Spar Russia would spend the next three years recruiting store owners, bringing its distribution centres up to speed, refining its retail strategy and training staff. He confirmed Spar wanted to work with Russian partner Rusmed ­ a food and consumer goods distributor ­ to open 30 budget supermarkets as part of a local pilot programme. The first of these would appear in Moscow some time this summer. But rivals believe Spar and Rusmed will have to invest up to US$80m to get the group off the ground in Russia. And the Moscow Times says the news has created few ripples. It says: “Local retailers have grown tired of widespread scaremongering regarding the imminent arrival of Western retail networks.” {{NEWS }}