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Moscow Stores Seek Return to Normalcy After Attacks

Shops, streets and cafes in Moscow bustled with energy, a day after two suicide bombers killed at least 38 people .

MOSCOW — The shops, streets and cafes of the Russian capital bustled with energy on Tuesday, a day after two suicide bombers killed at least 38 people during morning rush hour attacks on the Moscow subway.

This story first appeared in the March 31, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Some shoppers and retail analysts said they expected the terrorist attacks — the first to strike Moscow in six years — would have little or no effect on customer habits.

“Everyone is just sort of plowing on,” said Francesca Albert, a Moscow-based expat lawyer, who was in New York during the Sept. 11 attacks and in London for the July 7 subway bombings.

But some people were on edge as rumors of bombings and bomb threats swept through the city on Tuesday.

“Of course retail is going to be affected,” said Aizel Trudel, owner of Moscow’s posh Aizel boutique. “I don’t think normal people are thinking about shopping at this time.”

Russia’s stock exchanges briefly dipped after the bombings at two subway stations in the center of Moscow before recovering by the end of the day and were up Tuesday.

Russian officials said the attacks were carried out by two Chechen women with links to militant groups in the country’s restive southern region. Chechen rebels, fighting an Islamist and separatist war, carried out a series of major attacks in Russia from 1995 to 2004. The relative calm that had reigned since then, coupled with oil-driven economic growth, saw Russia turn into one of the world’s fastest growing retail markets until the financial crisis hit in late 2008.

Russian retail sales fell 6.5 percent last year and have yet to see a recovery. January’s retail figures were flat, year-on-year, while February’s registered a rise of 1.3 percent compared with February 2009, when the crisis was nearing its bottom.

Mikhail Krasnopyorov, a retail analyst at Russian bank Troika Dialog, said he expected retail sales to grow by 4 percent this year, and predicted the bombings would not be a factor.

Some luxury shoppers noted Moscow’s upper class, and its small but fast-growing middle class, rarely take the subway and therefore wouldn’t feel targeted.

“Where the glamorous people go, there are no terrorist attacks,” said Evgenia Romanova, a designer.