LONDON — Russian nationals shopping for luxury goods in Britain are being forced to tighten their purse strings due to a fresh set of government sanctions that retailers have begun to impose.
Harrods confirmed Thursday that it is complying with U.K. government sanctions and informing Russian nationals who reside in Russia that they cannot buy goods worth more than 300 pounds, including tax.
The fresh sanctions on luxury goods were set out last month by the U.K. government in a further response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Harrods holds information on customers via its Harrods Rewards scheme and delivery data, and has been writing to customers who may “currently, or ordinarily, be resident or domiciled” in Russia.
It is asking them to confirm their addresses and informing them of the new sanctions. The store is not writing to Russian nationals who reside in the U.K., or outside Russia.
Harrods said in a statement that the new U.K. sanctions against Russia “specifically target the sale of certain categories of luxury goods, and this impacts a wide range of retailers and brands, restricting any customers living in Russia.”
The store added that in order to comply with the government restrictions, it has reviewed its database “to identify potentially impacted customers,” and has asked them to notify Harrods if the information it holds is not accurate and current.
Harrods said its letters to customers are not based on nationality, but on the address, contact details or previous transaction delivery data provided by the customers.
“Our priority is to comply with regulations; informing potentially impacted customers on how it may limit their ability to shop at Harrods, and ensuring wider customers are not unduly affected. We are happy that we have been able to take this action and support customers in making them aware of recent government regulations,” the store said.
Dan Webster, group general counsel, Harrods, said the recent steps taken by the store are to comply with the law, “and this applies to all retailers of luxury goods in the U.K.”
The store declined to say how many customers would be affected by the latest sanctions, or how big its Russian customer base is.
Not everyone has detailed customer data, so it’s up to each store, and brand, to take action based on the information they have. As reported, Chanel restricted sales to Russian customers even before the U.K. tightened restrictions on luxury sales to the country’s nationals.
Chanel said in a statement to WWD last month that the most recent EU and Swiss sanction laws include a prohibition on “the sale, supply, transfer or export, directly or indirectly, of luxury goods to any natural or legal person, entity or body in Russia or for use in Russia. Under the applicable EU sanctions, this prohibition applies to luxury goods listed insofar as their value exceeds EUR 300 per item (CHF 300 under the CH sanctions).”
Chanel said that as a result of the new EU and Swiss laws, it rolled out a process to ask clients for whom it does not know the main residency “to confirm that the items they are purchasing will not be used in Russia. We recognize that this process of walking through the law has caused disappointment to some of our clients. We apologize for any misunderstanding this may have caused, as welcoming all our clients, regardless of where they come from, is a priority for Chanel,” the brand added.
In April, the British government unveiled further trade sanctions against Russia, expanding the list of products facing import bans and increasing tariffs. Including those new measures, the U.K. is now imposing import tariffs and bans on more than 1 billion pounds of Russian goods.
The new sanctions included import bans on silver, wood products and high-end products from Russia, including caviar. It also set out tariff increases of 35 percent on around 130 million pounds worth of products from Russia and Belarus, including diamonds and rubber.
At the time, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said the U.K. was “steadfast in our support for the people of Ukraine and these new significant sanctions will impose further economic pain on [Vladimir] Putin’s economy for his barbaric and unjustified attacks on a sovereign nation.”