Ukrainian flag

Convenience stores are boycotting Russian goods and raising funds and flags in support of Ukraine as the ongoing invasion began to increase costs in local stores.

Collection points for goods and financial donations to support refugees sprung up in local shops across the UK as more than two million people fled Ukraine.

Alcester Road Service Station in Worcester partnered with local rugby team Worcester Warriors to collect needed supplies from customers.

Pike’s in Porthmadog raised £135 on the first day of their fundraising drive.

Hunston Village Stores & Post Office in Chichester filled five vans with donated goods within a week.

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At Wilson Rea’s Key-Store More in Lanark, his external digital media screen flashed ‘Unite for Ukraine’, while others displayed the country’s yellow-and-blue flag in their windows.

All received widespread support from customers, but some store owners expressed concern that Russian residents and shop owners in the UK that are not responsible for the country’s actions could bear the brunt of anti-Russia sentiment.

Many wholesalers, supermarkets and suppliers have also taken action by removing Russian-owned lines from their ranges, with Russian Standard vodka becoming the most high-profile target.

Nisa said it had “delisted [Russian Standard] with immediate effect because of concerns that it’s overtly marketed as being Russian and produced there”.

Go Local Extra Rochdale owner Sasi Patel also removed the product from his shelves and displayed a poster in his window announcing the change.

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Russian Standard lines also disappeared from Booker‘s online ordering, leaving Bestway as the only major wholesaler still stocking the brand as of 8 March, though a statement said Russian Standard lines would be delisted as soon as the current stock holding was sold through. Bestway Wholesale managing director Dawood Pervez said: “In solidarity with the people of Ukraine and all those affected by the atrocities seen in recent weeks, we cannot in good conscience continue to sell Russian produced goods.”

“Bestway has an extensive range of spirits available across our depots and in stores, so retailers and consumers will continue to enjoy access to our market-leading range.”

A UK spokesperson for Russian Standard said they were “deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic events unfolding in Ukraine”, and would “respect any decisions” grocers make.

Other Russia-linked vodka brands were also affected.

Halewood Artisanal Spirits announced it would be pulling all production from Russia and would be removing the country from its JJ Whitley Russian Vodka lines. Pervez signalled his support for the change stating: “We have also reviewed all JJ Whitley products that are currently made in Russia. The UK brand owner of JJ Whitley (Halewood Artisanal Spirits) have announced they are moving all production to Chorley in the UK by the end of this month – a decision that we wholeheartedly support. We will continue selling JJ Whitley products in light of this decision.”

Russian discounter Mere is also to pull its recently launched UK store and abandon plans to enter the UK market, according to The Grocer.

Impact on stores

Analysts including ING and Hovis’ head of procurement have raised the alarm that disruption to oil, gas, grain, aluminium and vegetable oils will add to the inflationary pressures faced by stores, with the impact already seen at pumps and in utility bills.

Petrol Retailers Association executive director Gordon Balmer told betterRetailing: “Rising fuel prices have put further pressure on margins, and pump price increases are necessary to ensure that forecourt operators can continue serving their communities.”

Forecourt retailer Goran Raven, of Raven’s Budgens in Romford, east London, said: “The fuel price increases have come through to us, and I am looking at other garages that are selling fuel at a loss so they don’t lose customers.”

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Increased costs

Rising pump prices have retailers reconsidering their stock ordering. “We will have to think about in the future whether the price of fuel to travel to the cash and carries or to Booker is worth it,” said Samantha Coldbeck, owner of Wharfedale Premier in Hull.

Gaurave Sood, of Neelam Post Office & Convenience in Uxbridge, west London, said: “We will have to start considering whether daily cash-and-carry visits are necessary.”

In utilities, the uncertainty continues to fuel escalating rates for stores needing to enter new tariffs.

Broker Neil King warned disruption to Russian gas into Europe and the UK would have a devastating impact on store rates.

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