• L’Occitane announced on Friday that it would close its Russian in an abrupt reversal.
  • The cosmetics group previously said it would keep its 110 Russian stores open to protect employees.
  • It intends to continue paying its Russian and Ukrainian employees as the stores remain closed.

A French luxury beauty retailer has made an about-face by closing its Russian operations days after announcing it would remain open.

It marks the latest battle between Western governments and private companies.

L’Occitane, a cosmetics company with 133 stores in the United States, released a statement on Friday, saying it was closing its stores and e-commerce website in Russia, after limiting its actions to halting investment and expansion plans in the country.

“In view of the enormous human suffering caused by the escalation of military action in Ukraine and to protect our employees around the world from possible public aggression, we have decided to close our own stores and e-commerce sites in Russia” , L’Occitane said in a statement.

L’Occitane did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment outside of normal working hours.

According to the company latest interim annual report, L’Occitane operated 110 stores in Russia, while the country accounted for 3% of its total sales.

The company made a total of $735 million in sales in the first half of its 2022 fiscal year and sold $23.6 million worth of items in Russia.

Friday’s statement followed a announcement Tuesday by L’Occitane that the company would not close its stores in Russia because they could not confirm that their 700 employees in the country would not face retaliation following a possible exit.

L’Occitane said it would continue to pay the salaries of its Russian and Ukrainian employees.

Companies that have continued to operate in Russia as most pull out are facing harsh criticism from Western governments. A number of companies have downsized without ceasing operations altogether.

A database developed by Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld from Yale University School of Management shows all companies still active in Ukraine. Fashion brand Lacoste and US IT company Cloudflare are among those listed as “digging”.

US President Joe Biden has attempted to limit the activity of US investors and companies in Russia, signing an executive order on April 6 prohibiting “any new investment in the Russian Federation by an American, wherever located”.