MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russians visited H&M's flagship Moscow store for the last time on Wednesday before the world's No.2 fashion retailer closes all its stores in Russia for good, after a stock sale that lasted for almost four months.
H&M shut its stores soon after Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine, before reopening to snaking queues of people in August to sell surplus inventory.
The crowds were not so large on Wednesday, but those who made the effort were rewarded with fully stocked shelves and 50% off everything.
Anastasia, 29, said it was sad that H&M and many other brands were leaving, but said life must go on.
"I'm sure that something new will appear, something interesting, we are always open to this," she told Reuters outside the store. "There is no need to dwell on the negative."
Companies have come under public and political pressure not to do business in Russia, with many foreign outlets hurriedly suspending operations soon after the troops went in although not necessarily announcing a permanent exit.
H&M took a 2.1-billion-crown hit in the third quarter for winding down its business Russia. The Swedish firm became the first big European retailer to start layoffs, announcing 1,500 job cuts on Wednesday due to softening demand as consumers grapple with soaring inflation.
The Russian government has said that H&M has put its assets up for sale, and expects the potential buyer to be a Russian company or an entity from a "friendly" country - one of those that have not imposed sanctions against Russia.
H&M rented its 170 physical stores in the country and operated them directly.
Russia's TASS news agency reported last week that around 80% of H&M stores in Russia were already closed.
An H&M representative confirmed that all stores still open in Russia would close on Wednesday, but declined to comment further.
(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Alison Williams)