Many French businesses open, expand in Ukraine
Ukrainian-French trade relationship is doing well and the arrival of new companies — one of them iconic — ready to contribute to the Ukrainian market’s development is a perfect illustration.
Economic ties between the two countries in 2018 amounted to a total of $2.28 billion worth of trade since Ukraine’s independence, according to the Ukrainian embassy in France. The French-Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce that about 180 French companies are implanted in Ukraine — even though only 125 are registered at the chamber.
It is not surprising then that, in such a favorable context, new French companies decide to start doing business in Ukraine.
“Sport accessible to everyone,” told Florent Guieu — the CEO of Decathlon Ukraine that opened its first store on March 23 near Kyiv’s Pochaina metro — to the Kyiv Post on April 4 in order to describe the underlying philosophy of the firm.
With 1,400 stores in more than 55 countries of the world, Decathlon is the world’s largest sporting goods retailer and therefore the uncontested international leader in the industry — and a great representative of French know-how when it comes to business.
Since it first opened its doors in 1976 in Northern France, Decathlon’s concept always was to “bring all sports under one roof,” said Guieu.
It is in that spirit that the international brand decided to move to Ukraine.
He explained that “for many years, Decathlon would open only in two countries, but our strategy has changed since 2015… we have opened our doors in 10 countries in only two years.”
Decathlon has opened its doors for instance in both Japan and San Francisco during the last few weeks, which illustrates further its new expansion policy.
According to Guieu, it was evident that it needed to open a first store — with the clear intention to open more in the future. “With the arrival of several retailers in the country, it is the right time for us to open our store too,” he added.
Decathlon has actually been working in Ukraine for already six years he explained: “hundreds of thousands of high-quality hiking shoes, all of football goalkeepers’ gloves, all hockey crosses, and all skis are produced locally.”
With 75 workers within the store, and 300 employees for production, the company is also a great job generator for the country.
The internal functioning of Decathlon consists also in giving the chance to each employee to rise from the very bottom to the top of the pyramid — this is why 90 percent of all CEOs started from lower positions according to Guieu.
“All the people we recruit isn’t for what they can do today, but for what they might do tomorrow… it is their potential that we look at the most,” he added.
Decathlon had an amazing start with 6,000 visitors on the first weekend and several articles going out of stock — “the line was so long that people had to wait outside for safety measures.”
Guieu rejoices to see the Ukrainian market wide open for them and was happily surprised to see a favorable environment with helpful Ukrainian authorities who ensured a smooth cooperation before the opening.
“Ukraine is very welcoming… it is a great place for both personal and professional self-fulfillment… it is definitely the place to be,” he concluded.
Another company has taken the leap to do business in Ukraine: Aigle Azur.
The French Airline company has decided to open a new route between Paris-Orly and Kyiv with a first upcoming flight on April 18.
Tiago Martins, the Chief Commercial and Marketing Officer told the Kyiv Post that “Ukraine was quite a logical direction due to the developed relationship between France and Ukraine, and the removal of visas for Ukrainian nationals visiting France.”
Martins declared that the intention of the company was clearly to stay in Ukraine, and even maybe increase frequencies depending on the success of the route.
He said that with a capacity of 180 seats per flight, “the booking trend is looking good.”
He also added that the company is “making sure to keep a competitive price base to meet Ukrainian travelers’ expectations” — all in the hope to fly at full capacity.
Martins concluded that the company received substantial support from Ukrainian authorities — yet another good sign of the business environment’s health.
FM Logistic Ukraine
New companies coming in and older ones expanding — French businesses are doing well in Ukraine.
According to country manager Sébastien Lardellier, FM Logistic (FML) increased its volume threefold in 2018, making it “a breakthrough year” for the company.
As a consequence, Lardellier told the Kyiv Post that, in addition to the 24000 square meters of warehousing facilities already built from 2014 to 2017, the company is in the approval stage for the construction of a new warehouse in Dudarkiv Logistic park in Kyiv Oblast.
“A decision that should be made by “the end of June 2019 for delivery within 1.5–2 years,” he said.
FML is dedicated to Ukraine and believes in its future. Lardellier noted, the company “stayed and grew in Ukraine during the hardest crisis while some international players left or stopped development.”
Lardellier highlighted that it received authorization from the authorities in 2017 to build their latest warehouse.
“The company received real and transparent support from different administrations, which was important and reassured the company that they were right to continue investment in Ukraine,” he said.
“In the past, we had different issues due to the complexity of taxation in Ukraine, but we clearly saw a step-by-step simplification of taxation, which makes our life easier, and let us concentrate on our core business.” ■
Florent Guieu, CEO of Decathlon Ukraine, speaks with the Kyiv Post at the sporting goods retailer's first store in Kyiv on April 4, 2019. (Oleg Petrasiuk)
An Airbus A319 aircraft of Weaving group's French airline Aigle Azur takes off from Lille Airport in Lesquin, northern France on August 25, 2017. Starting on April 18, Aigle Azur will operate three flights a week from Paris-Orly to Kyiv Boryspil. (AFP)