By Alexander Kolyandr and Gregory L. White
Nov. 12, 2014 4:26 p.m. ET
MOSCOW—The ruble is down more than 30% against the dollar and the Russian economy is headed for stagnation at best, according to official forecasts. What are many Russians doing? Going shopping.
“For me, the currency crisis yielded a new Brompton £100 ($160) cheaper than in Britain,” said Peter Favorov, a magazine editor in Moscow, referring to a British-made folding bicycle that costs about £1,000 in the U.K.
The bikes are more sold in Moscow for rubles, but as on many goods, prices haven’t yet adjusted to the sharp drop in the ruble. So many Russians are looking to make major purchases now, before the ruble drops further or prices are raised to reflect the devaluation.
“People are getting rid of their cash and buying holiday gifts early,” said Lyudmilla Semushkina, spokeswoman for Inventive Retail Group, which runs about 270 stores around Russia for foreign brands such as Apple , Sony and Lego.
“People have started coming to our electronics stores with the clear intention of buying,” she said. When they get to the stores, they spend more—buying 55-inch TVs and the latest high-definition models, she said.
Floor traffic in shopping malls across Russia picked up as the ruble plumbed record lows—touching 48 per dollar, down from 31 at the start of the year. Watcom, a consultancy that tracks traffic data from around the country, says the pickup began in September, earlier than in past years, and has been relatively steady.
Retailers say the miniboom seems to be especially strong in big cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, where consumers are wealthier. In Yekaterinburg, the Ural Mountain industrial center, the City Center mall on Lenin Avenue says sales are down about 50% from last year.
Car sales were down 9.9% last month, according to data released Wednesday, but that was the smallest decline in months. In part, that was due to a government-subsidy program for replacing old cars that took effect Sept. 1, according to the Association of European Business, which collects the figures.
Still, the group said the drop in the ruble played a role as well, and that the momentum has carried into November.