Ulmart (Юлмарт) is a Russian retail chain selling computer hardware, digital and consumer electronics. Open 24 hours a day, each store is nothing like a retail store in the West, as I discovered when I visited one of their stores in Saint Petersburg.
Step 1: select your purchases using their website http://www.ulmart.ru/, print out your order number, and bring it into the store. If you don’t have a computer at home, you can come into the store and browse the website from there.
Step 2: take your order slip to the Кассы (cashier) and pay the balance of your order, using either case of credit card.
Step 3: take the receipt to the pickup counter, wait for your number to be called, and collect your goods from the warehouse.
Today Ulmart is Russia’s biggest e-commerce company, and is considered the country’s answer to US-based online behemoth Amazon.com – amazing for a company nobody in the West has heard of! Already processing US $1 billion in sales a year and offering around 80,000 products on their website, they plan to expand their range to over 150,000 items by the end of 2014, and increase their revenue by 60 percent to $1.6 billion.
How did I end up there?
During my 2012 trip to Europe I managed to break my GPS data logger, leaving me with no way to geotag my photos. Ordering a new data logger online and getting it delivered to my hotel wasn’t an option, as I was only in Saint Petersburg for a few days, so I started trawling through Russian language websites to find a local stockist of the devices.
I eventually found the website of Ulmart, who had a GPS data logger in stock, and a number of stores scattered across the suburbs of Saint Petersburg. Unfortunately when I had a look at their opening hours, the confusion started:
круглосуточно, перерыв в работе касс с 23:45 до 00:05
Понедельник – пятница: с 10:00 до 19:00
Суббота, воскресенье – выходной
ежедневно с 10:00 до 21:30
ежедневно с 10:00 до 22:00
Running it through Google Translate didn’t help very much:
clock, time off work desks with 23:45 to 00:05
Eventually I turned to the staff at the hotel front desk, who said that it meant that the store was open 24 hours a day, but they close for 20 minutes at midnight so the cashiers could close off the accounts for the day.
With that question settled, I placed an order online, and my girlfriend and I then set off into the suburbs of Saint Petersburg.
We ended up getting in, picking up my order, and then getting out again in just 20 minutes.