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Breaking Down Social Barriers to Bring Cool to the Russian Middle Class

June 2012

By Maria Petrova, Moscow

Even though Moscow may resemble Europe-- with its cafes, clubs and shops-- Russian society remains divided. While many people in villages and small towns struggle everyday to get by, a relatively new and small middle class may enjoy even higher standards of living than in the United States and Europe. Russia was less affected by the financial crisis, and increasing numbers of expats now seek jobs in Moscow as a result.

Russians, unlike the expat community in Moscow, are known for their lack of a desire to save money. Cheap products are perceived by many Russians to be poor in quality, and people who consume them run the risk of being thought of as unstylish, or even lacking in self-respect.

Saving on clothes and fashion is especially difficult. Russian consumers who do not travel abroad had little to choose from, aside from a few mass-market brands, until recently. Just a couple of months ago, Podium-Market opened its doors. An affordable affiliate of Podium-- an upscale retailer that carries designer closes-- Podium-Market carries trendier, more affordable brands that are not as well known in Russia yet, such as American Apparel, Whistler and Hego’s Liverpool. Their Sunday-Up-Market section carries unusual items from up-and-coming Russian designers.

So long as the integrity of quality isn’t compromised; however, Russians do seem to like to save money through online shopping. is a travel agency that tracks and sells cool travel deals, from Arctic expeditions and yacht trips, to surfing classes in Bali. Internet coupon companies-- such as, Biglion, Vigoda and Kuponator-- are also gaining popularity. Offering discounts for nearly anything, beauty salons, trips and adventures are the most popular. I tried gliding in the UK recently, and my London friends learned about the opportunity from their local Groupon site. Upper-class, or otherwise, being open to savings also means being open to new experiences in Russia today.

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