The Best Way to sell alcohol on the Internet in Russia (or not)

The most popular market for online Russian buyers is apparel and footwear. That’s based on East-West Digital News, which covers innovation and technology in Central and Eastern Europe. But there are markets that are underdeveloped online. One of them is alcohol.

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

From the numbers

First, let’s examine the numbers. According to the Association of Internet Trade Businesses, a Russia-based trade association, online sales of alcohol at 2017, excluding beer, amounted to 3.2 billion rubles (approximately $55.3 million) and 1.4 million gallons (approximately 370,000 gallons).

This is an increase over 2016 of 18 percent (currency ) and 42 percent (quantity ). Based on AITC report, the most popular drinks ordered online in 2017 were whiskey, cognac, vodka, tequila, and wine. The typical order was approximately 5,700 rubles roughly $100.

Seventy-five percent of online alcohol sales in 2017 were to Moscow inhabitants. Twenty percent went to Saint Petersburg, the second largest town. Surprisingly, 52 percent of those buyers were girls aged 21-31. As stated by the AITC, these girls aren’t necessarily customers; they are largely personal assistants or secretaries of company executives.

These numbers are amazing since selling alcohol on the internet in Russia is prohibited .


The law of the Russian Federation”On the Protection of the Consumers’ Rights” No. 2300-1 on February 7, 1992 was supported by the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation No. 612″On Approval of the Rules for Sale of Products by Remote Means,” dated September 27, 2007, which governs the sale of goods and services Online. Point 5 of the Decree states:

It’s not permitted to sell raw alcohol products, in addition to goods, the free sale of that is restricted or prohibited by the laws of the Russian Federation.

Significant retailers are trying to persuade the authorities to amend the law and allow the online selling of alcohol at least certain days or time. However, other less dominant sellers claim to have discovered legal techniques to consummate the earnings.

Some online stores sell”bookings” for alcohol rather than the actual item. In cases like this, the customer pays cash electronically, but for a service. The purchaser will then travel into the shop to find the reserved solution, since the delivery will be treated as part of the selling procedure.

Another method is to give away alcohol (for free) when buying other items, like cigarettes. This a common tactic among online retailers to provide products that are prohibited.

High demand

The requirement for ordering alcohol on the internet is high, and the industry is growing, notwithstanding the legal limitations. There are two reasons for this.

First is the price. Alcohol is not as expensive online. Second is the variety. Physical retailers can’t match the variety of alcohol products from online vendors.

In terms of customs clearance from cross-border sellers, Russian citizens can’t receive via customs over five liters of alcohol in 1 calendar month. Moreover, only 3 liters from five are free of a customs statement — if they cost less than $150 ($184) in total. The fourth and the fifth liter will be assessed a $10 duty each. Some cross-border online shops that provide alcohol to Russia don’t allow purchases of over three liters to avoid the complexity.

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