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Business

Russian retailer Ulmart rides out storm

Russia's version of Amazon, Ulmart, has strengthened its position as the country's top online retailer despite a weakening ruble and Western sanctions. Some rivals may go out of business, not so Ulmart.

Ulmart's sales hit $1.3 billion (1.16 billion euros) in 2014, marking a 30-percent increase over the previous year and making the company the third-largest Internet company in the country after search engine Yandex and Mail.ru, a major email provider also controlling top networking sites.

Ulmart now has more than 8 million regular clients and counts some 750,000 visits to its website daily, with shoppers able to get anything from cosmetics, auto parts, books, music and airline tickets.

According to executives, sales and earnings had been boosted not least thanks to recent acquisitions of No Limit Electronics (NLE), a large supplier of satellite dishes, and Dream Industries, a leading seller of books and music online.

Logistical independence

But even as Russians are faced with the freefall of their national currency and plunging wages in many industries, Ulmart expects to strengthen its position in the market.

"We're optimistic about this year [despite consumers' loss of purchasing power]," Ulmart Board Chairman Dmitry Kostygin said in a statement. "But for certain competitors, it will be difficult," he added, also considering the long-term impact of trade sanctions in place over Russia's role in the Ukraine conflict.

The company said it had filled its warehouses before suppliers hiked prices, thus enabling it to sell cheaper than most rivals.

Founded in 2008 in Saint Petersburg, Ulmart adapted Amazon's model to Russia's logistics landscape and built up a network of pickup points near customers instead of having to rely on the lumbering postal service.

hg/bk (AFP, dpa)

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