In an interview, Natalia Yashkina, Global Blue’s Country Managing Director in Russia, tells us about the successes and future opportunities the opening of this new market announces.
1. How has Global Blue Tax Free Shopping service in Russia progressed since the country opening a few months back?
Natalia Yashkina: Since January 31 when we became the first major Tax Free Shopping (TFS) to open in Russia, the number of transactions registered has grown unabated. We are already working with over 300 stores across 11 cities1 to offer our Globe Shoppers our services in Russia; and will continue to grow this number over the coming months.
We are also pleased to have been able to bring some of Global Blue’s market-leading innovations to Russia. In July for example, we launched Mobile Customer Care - a solution providing real-time and contextual notifications sent to travellers’ phone.
2. What impact have you seen on Russia’s travel and retail industries?
NY: So far we have had very positive feedback from our merchants partners, some of whom have seen sales-in-store from international customers increase as much as double since the launch of TFS in the country, when compared to the same period last year.
Of course, we operate within a clear framework defined by the Russian government whose goal is to promote Russia as a valuable shopping destination. It’s still early days, however we believe this perception has already been enhanced, particularly amongst Chinese Globe Shoppers, a key audience both in terms of numbers and purchasing power. Currently, they account for 55% of overall TFS sales-in-store within the country.
3. What effect did the 2018 FIFA World Cup have on the TFS industry in Russia?
NY: Thanks to the huge influx of travellers coming from all over the world during those few weeks, we recorded sales-in-store from 140 Globe Shopper nationalities. In addition, we saw an eight-fold increase in transactions during this period compared to the launch month.
More broadly speaking, the World Cup was a great opportunity to raise the profile of Russia as a TFS destination. For example, we were able to attend and host press conferences with some of our key merchant partners, both here in Russia and in China and participate to an outdoor advertising campaign which ran in Moscow.
4. What is next for TFS in Russia?
NY: As of October 2018, we will start introducing digital issuing solutions, starting with the provision of self-issuing kiosks to our main merchant partners.
We also plan to continue to expand on our traveller services; in addition to working with affiliated merchants to roll out Mobile Customer Care more widely, we will soon introduce our Fast Refund service, by which merchants will be able to offer VAT refunds to Globe Shoppers immediately in their store, while the Globe Shopper is still shopping.