German conglomerate Metro is opening up to five Real hypermarkets this year, turning up the heat on Koç joint-venture Ramstore, Auchan and fledgling Russian chain Mosmart.
Mosmart chief operating officer and former Carrefour man Eric Blondeau says Metro will have six hypermarkets in Moscow by the end of the year. There are 16 hypermarkets in the capital but Blondeau predicts Moscow will have 50 by 2010.
Mete Doguoglu, deputy general director at shopping centre developer Ramenka, said: 'We're fighting for the same space in Moscow. It is possible [to get sites] if you pay the price and are lucky.'
Doguoglu said the retailer plans to open 50 Ramstore outlets and double Russian sales this year.
Local grocer Perekriostok, backed by private conglomerate the Alfa Group, is eyeing 32 hypermarkets and supermarkets in the country this year.
There is speculation that absent international players, such as Wal-Mart, Tesco and Carrefour, will enter Russia by snapping up Perekriostok or Pyaterochka.
Perekriostok deputy chief financial officer Alexander Panas did not rule out a merger, because no single food retailer has a market share of more than 1 per cent. However, he said: 'I don't believe there are serious talks at the moment.'
Perekriostok has poached talent from Tesco Poland including Artur Dlubak, who now heads up supply chain operations, as it targets US$1 billion (£528.8 million) sales this year, up from US$660 million (£349 million) last year.
Asked whether he expected to find himself working for Tesco again, Dlubak said: 'Tesco came to Poland after the other retailers [Auchan and Metro] but then developed much faster. Tesco will come when the moment is right.'