Buying: the Russian way

Young, ambitious, highly-educated, understanding of target group purchasing behaviour and detailed product knowledge combined with a tough negotiating technique. Who identifies the modern Russian buyer from this description? During the last 20 years the Russians have made massive advances when it comes to importing retail products and especially when it comes to getting the most for their money. Denationalisation has resulted in the large retail chains in Russia developing an American way of working. Everything is about speed and profit. However, the Russian ‘touch’ means that many Dutch producers return home disheartened and wonder what went wrong. How do they buy their products in Russia?


Business Speed-dating

Export Partner exports to Russia on behalf of a number of clients, which is where we have discovered an interesting approach to buying, the so-called Retail Procurement Centre. In reality, it’s a kind of speed-dating, but for sellers and buyers. The sellers can register for 1-to-1 sessions with the buyer in order to present their products during a 10-minute meeting. Of course, it’s not free to attend this procurement centre but the costs are only a fraction of the expense you would incur if you had to approach all of the potential customers individually. In this way, the seller can conduct as many as 10 individual discussions within a period of 2 to 3 hours. The buyer gets to see new product developments and saves valuable time. This form of collaboration has been borne out of the typical Russian mentality. People distrust all that is unknown and will, by definition, adopt a negative attitude towards the Western cold-calling style of acquisition.

Once you are at the table as a seller, there are also a number of house rules that you have to take into account. For example, facial expressions say nothing about the potential success of the sales efforts. Call it the ‘mysterious Russian spirit’. But that makes our work even more fascinating.


A number of Russian house rules:

  • Never shake a Russian’s hand above the threshold of a door; it’s a bad sign
  • As a visitor to Russia always be the first to enter a room
  • If you intend on giving flowers to a Russian then make sure it is an uneven number. Even numbers are only for funerals.

Elena Geerdink-Bytsjichina
Export Manager