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Amorim in Russia: how to sell in a tough market

In business you can learn a lot from the past, and this is especially true in the Russian building market. The current situation is making things difficult for international firms, but this is nothing new to veterans of the market, who have experienced the debt default of 1998 and the global crisis a decade later and are confident things will change.

Amorim Revestimentos is one of the most experienced European firms there is – the Portuguese company has sold its cork flooring and wall coverings in Russia since the Soviet era, and has no plans to scale back any time soon. José Leandro, Amorim’s sales manager for Eastern Europe, talks about his company’s long experience in Russia, how Amorim is dealing with the current headwinds, and why Russia is the perfect market for his firm's product.

How long have you been in Russia? What encouraged you to take the step into the market?

Amorim’s presence in Russia goes back to the Soviet era. In the absence of commercial and diplomatic relations between Russia and Portugal, we created a joint company in Austria to deal with countries in Eastern Europe, and particularly the Soviet Union.

How did you first make the move into Russia?

Firstly we operated from Austria, then from Riga, and in 1996 we opened our own company in Moscow, which functioned for five years until we closed it after 1998. This direct presence was crucial in gaining knowledge of the market.

After the closure of the Moscow company, and based on the knowledge we acquired, we then started a new business model based on local distributors. Through their own retail and wholesale network, our distributors cover the whole of Russia, from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok.

What is the single biggest challenge the current situation in Russia brings, and how are you coping with it?

No one was ready for this situation or expected it at all – there are still no signs of when or how things will change or recover. The biggest challenge is securing market share and dealing with finance and credit issues at the same time. We will be more interventional and supportive to our partners in the pursuit of solutions to help us endure and overcome the situation.

What advice would you give companies in Russia who are suffering due to the economic situation?

Endure it, and have a proactive attitude. It is our deeply-held belief that the situation will recover and that there will be a turning point somewhere in the near future.

Why is Russia such a good market for cork flooring and wall covering?

Russia and cork go hand in hand. Considering the difficult climatic conditions of Russia, the warmth and technical properties of cork makes it an ideal flooring and wall covering product for the Russian market. Over the years, Amorim has developed floor and wall coverings with exclusive properties due to its innovative Corktech technology.

How would you describe the Russian preference for architecture and design?

Somewhere between classic chic and modern tastes, with light colours and exclusive designs and solutions having a particular appeal.

What do you like best about doing business in Russia? And about the country itself?

The people and culture, the sheer size of the country, and its diversity make doing business in Russia a unique and challenging experience.

What single piece of advice would you give to companies looking to do business in Russia?

Find the right local partners! 


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Tanya Aleksankina

International Sales Manager - Interiors sectors


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