Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Firms Tout Goods at Expo

They publicly promote the use of Italian designers and manufacture 90 percent of their products overseas, but the Econika footwear company says it still faces the same problems tormenting much of Russian industry -- image.

In its eighth year of production, Econika is pushing ahead on its home turf, establishing a retail network that currently has 40 stores, 10 in Moscow.

It touts the Econika & Alla Pugachyova collection, produced with the permission of one of Russia's most beloved singers, and hopes to use the name to sell its products to the Russian "diaspora" overseas.

But realizing dreams of eventually selling large-scale to overseas markets are far, far away, says its head of advertising, Andrei Glashkin, and even at home, sales are hampered by the belief of an image-conscious populace that only foreign brands can offer style and fashion.

In a bid for exposure, more than 400 Russian consumer products firms gathered at Moscow's Expocentr this week for a consumer products exhibition that drew approximately 1,000 firms in all. Attendance by Russian firms saw a dramatic 100 percent increase from last year, according to Igor Denisov, director general of Expocentr.

For some smaller companies like Sadko-Ts, a cosmetics firm with 13 employees, such exhibitions are the only means to advertise products, given their limited budgets.

"TV advertisements, even ads in print, are out of bounds for us," said Yelena Grebneva, marketing manager for Sadko-Ts. "If we tried to invest more in advertising, this would push the price of the products out of the range of the average consumers we are targeting."

Competition against foreign brands is tough, Grebneva said. But the company has discovered that many wholesale buyers actually prefer less expensive perfume products. "For a foreign cream offered at 20 to 25 rubles, we retail similar products at around 12 rules," she said.

But again, when it comes to big-time sales, the Russian image problem has risen up to thwart Sadko-Ts. The firm has lost several export contracts because of poor packaging, Grebneva said. But it's the cheaper packaging that allows the company to sell at prices that can undercut foreign competitors.

In addition to the large firms like Econika and small-scale companies like Sadko-Ts, the exhibition drew many defense firm turned home appliance producers.

One former plant of airplane parts in Stupino, a town of about 80,000 residents that lies 100 kilometers south of Moscow, now makes a variety of products, but its most popular commodity is a line of pots and pans, said the plant's marketing manager, Rushan Musin, at the exposition.

The firm is eager to invade foreign markets with its radiator -- a special model that doesn't blow up when exposed to the intense pressures of the Russian heating system. But the firm lacks the advertising revenue necessary to fight the image battle.