Uniqlo operator closes all stores in Russia as war rages on

People are seen shopping at a Uniqlo casual wear store in this file photo taken in Moscow on April 2, 2010. (kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — The operator of casual wear chain Uniqlo announced on Thursday that it will close all 50 stores in Russia and join other global companies to halt operations there as Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine continues.

Fast Retailing Co.’s decision comes after it faced a spate of criticism on social media for its policy of keeping its Russian stores open at a time when its competitors were looking to scale back operations there.

Earlier this month, Inditex SA, which operates Zara brand clothing stores, and Hennes & Mauritz AB, which operates H&M stores, decided to cease operations in Russia.

In a statement, the Japanese fashion retailer, which opened its first store in Russia in 2010, cited “operational challenges and the aggravation of the conflict situation” as the reasons for the suspension. “It has become clear to us that we cannot go on any longer,” the clothing giant said.

Nintendo Co. announced on the same day that it had stopped shipping all of its products, including popular Switch consoles, to Russia for logistical reasons.

The video game giant, which has already stopped selling online software in Russia, said the decision will have a limited impact on its profits as sales in the country are relatively low.

Hitachi Ltd. said in a statement that at the request of a Ukrainian deputy prime minister, it is temporarily halting all manufacturing activities in Russia and suspending exports to the country.

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov said on Twitter earlier this week that he had urged the Japanese industrial conglomerate to stop supplying products and services to Russia. Hitachi manufactures and sells construction machinery in the country.

Mitsubishi Electric Corp., which sells industrial machinery and air conditioners in Russia, said it has halted exports to the country as “continuing the business is difficult under the current circumstances”.

The removal of some Russian banks from the international SWIFT payment system by the United States and its allies is making money transfers between countries more difficult, while logistical disruptions present another hurdle to overcome, a Mitsubishi Electric spokesman said.

Japan Tobacco Inc. announced that it will temporarily suspend investments and promotions in Russia. The company could also suspend operations at four factories in the country due to a difficult market environment, it said.

Toridoll Holdings Corp., an operator of udon noodle restaurants, plans to suspend operations at all seven of its stores in Russia due to supply chain disruptions.

Many Japanese companies have ceased operations in Russia following the February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Toyota Motor Corp. suspended operations at its St. Petersburg plant last Friday, while Nissan Motor Co. announced earlier this week that it would temporarily halt production at its plant in the Russian city.

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