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Harrods says it made a mistake after being accused of selling $200 Russian vodka 'underneath the counter'

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The luxury department store Harrods in London, England. Jeff Spicer/Getty Images.
The luxury department store Harrods in London, England. Jeff Spicer/Getty Images.
  • Luxury UK department store Harrods said it "mistakenly" sold expensive Russian vodka.
  • The store responded to critique from a British MP who said the retailer kept bottles of Beluga Vodka "underneath the counter."
  • The UK government escalated sanctions on Russia this week, ramping up tariffs on high-end imports like Vodka.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Luxury British department store Harrods said that it "mistakenly" sold an expensive brand of Russian vodka, having previously removed bottles from its shelves in reaction to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, The Independent reported.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday about how UK businesses were responding to the conflict, Labour MP Chris Bryant told lawmakers that Harrods was selling bottles of Russian Beluga vodka, "literally underneath the counter."

Bryant did not specify the grade of Beluga vodka that was reportedly sold at the store, referring to it only as costing £150, or around $198. Top end versions of Beluga vodka can sell for in excess of £100, equivalent to around $132, according to multiple online retailers. Sales of Beluga vodka outside Russia grew by 104.5% in 2021, exceeding sales in Russia, according to the distiller's website.

Responding to the claims, a spokesperson for Harrods told The Independent that bottles of the vodka were removed from the shelves "over a week ago," but an "error" was made after a customer inquired about the drink, and it was brought out of storage.

"While Beluga Vodka was removed from sale, remaining stock was held in storage ahead of being moved off site," the spokesperson said, according to the outlet. "After an inquiry by a customer, it was mistakenly brought out of stock and given to the customer. This was an error and should not have happened."

"All remaining stock has now been moved to an off-site location and is not available for sale," the spokesperson added, according to the paper.

Harrods did not reply to a request for comment from Insider.

British stores have been removing Russian products from their shelves

Bottles of vodka and other products such as Russian sunflower seeds have been disappearing from UK stores in the wake of Russia's attack on Ukraine on February 24. Sanctions imposed by Western countries designed to cripple Russia's economy are also likely to hit Russian vodka sales in these countries.

The UK government further ramped up sanctions against Moscow this week, introducing a ban on exports of luxury goods to Russia and enforcing new import tariffs on high-end products. A list of goods worth approximately £900 million would be hit with an additional 35% tariff – including vodka – the UK government said in a press release on Tuesday.

Luxury vehicles, high-end fashion, and art could also be affected by the export ban, the statement said. 

Bryant told lawmakers on Thursday that some companies were still not "pulling their weight" in relation to sanctions against Russia. He said that another high-end department store, Selfridges, still had Beluga Vodka on its shelves.

In a statement sent to Insider, a spokesperson for Selfridges said: "Selfridges stands against humanitarian injustice. We are adhering to current government guidance and abiding by all sanctions." 

Situated in the affluent area of Knightsbridge, London, Harrods is one of UK's most famous luxury department stores, stocking more than 5,000 brands, according to its website.

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