Russian Cataloger Turns Facilitator

In just six years, Moscow-based general merchandise cataloger Promopost Co. has built a $184 million business in Russia. Now the company is providing fulfillment and marketing services for international catalogers looking to break into the Russian market.

“With the economic reforms in Russia, new forms of commerce, such as mail order, have been a big success,” says Aline Bizien, Promopost’s European business development manager. “There are more people who can buy goods by mail order, especially in those regions of Russia where people don’t have the possibility to buy the needed goods in stores.”

The first cataloger to tap Promopost’s services was Yves Rocher, a Bretagne, France-based marketer of cosmetics and toiletries. In May 2001 it test-mailed 100,000 catalogs. Promopost subsequently mailed 10 Yves Rocher books throughout the next year to names from Promopost’s 9 million-name database; results were four times what Promopost had expected, Bizien says. (An Yves Rocher representative was unavailable to comment.)

UNCHARTED TERRITORY

The economic instability of Eastern Europe has no doubt prevented U.S. catalogers from entering the market. But recent reports indicate that, at least with Russia, more money is now flowing into the country than out. Russian finance minister Aleksei Kudrin told The New York Times in June that for the first time since Russia begin keeping stats on its country’s cash flow, there would be a surplus in Russia’s capital account this year.

As of Jan. 1, 2001, the Russian Federation population stood at 145.2 million. Personal income in Russia was up 15% this past April over the same period in 2001, to about $17,000.

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