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Russian tourists a boon for worried retailers

For many retailers, tourists, and the money they spend, are right now the only bright spot in an otherwise uncertain economic climate.

Turisti kuvaa Helsingin tuomiokirkkoa Senaatintorilla.
Image: Anne Hämälainen / YLE

"The service is very good. We like to come here to shop," say Ana and Sergei, who are visiting Helsinki from St Petersburg, Russia.

The people behind the cash register at the gifts and handicrafts shop Kankurin Tupa, in the centre of Helsinki, are just as pleased to see more Russian visitors.

"They are probably the largest group that come in all year round. They especially like buying furs and handmade woollen goods," explains shop assistant Lilli Kruth.

The Federation of Finnish Commerce has also taken note of an increase in sales to Russian tourists, something it considers was almost the only positive development being seen in the retail sector at the moment. The Federation's chief economist, Jaana Kurjenoja, forecasts that the growth in retail trade this year will fall to only one percent, and that there will be no growth at all next year.

"Up until now, retailers have maintained growth and employment, but next year this will not continue," predicts Kurjenoja.

Russian visitors represent a huge potential market. It is estimated that 80% of the 4.8 million inhabitants of nearby St. Petersburg have not yet visited Finland.

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