Russian sporting goods retailers reported a 28 percent increase in sales during the first week of March as compared to the same period of the previous year, according to the Russian government. The explanation offered by Tass, the state-owned news agency, is that the coronavirus epidemic has encouraged a growing number of companies to send their employees home for remote working, giving them more time to practice sports.

Another reason why people have been rushing to purchase sporting goods is an anticipated price hike of up to 300 percent for some products due to temporary shortages and a slump in the exchange rate of the Russian ruble during the past few weeks, according the Moscow-based Center for Macroeconomic Analysis and Short-Range Forecasting.

This is in contrast with more recent research indicating a possible 40 percent drop in the number of shoppers at clothing and footwear stores in March, leading their owners to ask landlords to be excused from paying rents for a while.

There is still no retail lockdown in Russia, where the Covid-19 virus has been less harmful than in Western Europe So far. As of March 24, there were only 495 cases of reported contamination in the country, and in most of them the infection has been found in people who had travelled in the European Union.

The Russian government has adopted a set of measures aimed at tackling the epidemic such as cancelling events, banning foreigners from entering the country, closing schools, theaters and museums. All Russian citizens coming from their vacations in Europe are ordered to stay at home for self-quarantine for a two-week period.

Against this background, online sales for all categories of goods have been soaring in Russia. The volume of the online market in Russia could jump by 25 percent to 2.5 trillion rubles (€29.3bn-$31.6bn) in 2020, said the Russian Association of Internet Trade Companies, adding that almost all online retailers planning to hire more personnel as they are experiencing an acute shortage of couriers.

On the other hand, Russians who are staying home in quarantine are ordering food and other goods of prime necessity on a massive scale, plus recreational goods.