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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Retailer Eyes Blitz In Russia

LONDON -- Kingfisher, Europe's biggest home-improvement retailer, is targeting a big push into Russia, a market it believes could be "absolutely massive," its chief executive said.

"I think Russia could be the next Poland," Kingfisher CEO Ian Cheshire said Thursday.

He estimated that the Russian home-improvement market was worth ?16 billion ($26.3 billion) a year and said it has strong similarities to Poland, where Kingfisher has built a 46-store business, generating an annual revenue of more than ?1 billion.

"There is a pretty atrocious housing stock that needs a lot of work. There is also a customer that's used to doing things with their hands ... and there is very little modern retail, it's mostly done through traditional markets," Cheshire said.

"It's a huge retail market, which is not yet tapped and one which we think is great for a home-improvement retailer, because the home is very high up on the list of things people want to do."

Kingfisher currently has seven stores in Russia, including in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Trading as Castorama, they recorded a like-for-like sales gain of 14.3 percent in the first quarter.

Cheshire said the plan was to open three or four stores this year, with openings of "at least" the same amount in following years.

He was also optimistic on the health of the Russian economy.

"As the oil price recovers back over $70 [a barrel], I can't help thinking Russia will be OK," he said.