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How to sell alcohol online in Russia (or not)

The most popular niche for Russian online shoppers is clothing and footwear. This is according to East-West Digital News, which covers technology and innovation in Central and Eastern Europe. But there are niches that are underdeveloped online. One of them is alcohol.

In this article, I will try to explain the status of online alcohol sales in Russia.

By the numbers

First, let's review the numbers. According to the Association of Internet Trade Companies, a Russian-based trade association, online alcohol sales in 2017, without beer, amounted to 3.2 billion rubles (about 55, $ 3 million) and 1.4 million liters (approximately 370,000 gallons).

This is an increase from 2016 of 18% (silver) and 42% (volume). According to the report of the AITC, the most popular drinks ordered online in 2017 were whiskey, cognac, vodka, tequila and wines. The average order was about 5 700 rubles, about $ 100

Seventy-five percent of all online alcohol sales in 2017 were destined for Moscow residents. Twenty percent went to St. Petersburg, the second largest city. Surprisingly, 52% of the buyers were women aged 21 to 31 years old. According to the AITC, these women are not necessarily consumers; they are mostly personal assistants or secretaries of business leaders.

These figures are amazing because selling alcohol online in Russia is illegal .


Law No. 2300-1 of 7 February 1992 on the Protection of Consumer Rights was confirmed by Decree No. 612 of the Government of the Russian Federation on the Approval of the Rules for the Sale of Goods Remote ", dated September 27, 2007, which governs the sale of goods and services over the Internet. Point 5 of the decree states:

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It is prohibited to sell distilled spirits and merchandise the free sale of which is prohibited or restricted by the legislation of the Russian Federation.

Major retailers are trying to persuade the government to amend the law and allow online sale of alcohol at least some days or times. But other less important vendors claim to have found legal methods to consume sales.

Some online stores sell "reservations" of alcohol and not the actual product. In this case, the customer pays money electronically, but for a service. The buyer will then go to the store to get the product booked, as the delivery will be treated as part of the sales process.

Another way is to give alcohol (for free) when buying other items, such as cigarettes. This is a common tactic among online retailers to offer banned products.

high demand

The demand for ordering alcohol online is high, and the market is growing, notwithstanding the legal restrictions. There are two reasons for this.

The first is the price. Alcohol is a lot cheaper online. The second is the variety. Physical retailers can not match the line of alcohol products of online sellers.

As regards the clearance of cross-border sellers, Russian citizens can not receive more than five liters of alcohol by customs in one calendar month. In addition, only three liters out of five are exempt from customs declaration – they cost less than 150 € (184 $) in total. The fourth and fifth liter will be accompanied by a tax of 10 € each. Some cross-border online stores that deliver alcohol to Russia do not allow purchases of more than three liters to avoid complexity.

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