Phenomenon of Nikolskaya: What is going on at the Moscow’s street that turned into international football festival

Phenomenon of Nikolskaya: What is going on at the Moscow’s street that turned into international football festival
Football fans from Mexico on Nikolskaya Street Photo: Alexander Ryumin / TASS

Nikolskaya street in Moscow has suddenly become a central place for the fans of the World Cup. RBC found out what is going on Moscow's popular tourist place and who enjoys the festival the most.

Nikolskaya street, located in the very center of Moscow - between the Red Square and Lubyanka Street, has always been a tourist destination, but not as popular as the other famous locations like Old Arbat, Tverskaya Street, Kuznetsky Most, and Stoleshnikov alley. Organizers of the World Cup also did not give the place a special role and defined a fan zone on Vorobyevy Gory as the main place for football fans. Suddenly Nikolskaya Street has become the main point on the football map of Moscow: fans all over the world gather there and organize a real carnival.

Why Nikolskaya? 

Nikolskaya Street has turned into a football center in Moscow due to its location, said Irina Ilina, the director of the Institute for Regional Studies and Urban Planning of the Higher School of Economics. The first must visit location for a foreigner who comes to Moscow is the Red Square. However, the square has a special status, so there are no catering points on its territory. In addition, in the first days of the championship entrance to the Red Square was closed after a concert dedicated to a national holiday on June 12. The fans, who came there and were not allowed to enter the Red Square stayed at bars and cafes located on Nikolskaya next to the popular tourist place, explains Ilyina.

As a result, the street has become an informal gathering place for football fans and those who want to feel the festive atmosphere. An analysis of press reports and social networks shows that in the period from June 7 to June 11, Nikolskaya Street was mentioned 651 times in media, and 15.8 thousand times in social networks, loosing to a number of mentions of Arbat (1,3 thousand and 26,1 thousand messages respectively). After the beginning of the World Cup, from June 14 to June 18, the number of its mentions in the mass media has grown threefold, and in social networks - more than double, Medialogiya reports. Mentions of Arbat in the World Cup days, on the contrary, declined.

Food & drinks on Nikolskya Street 

Owners of cafes and restaurants experience "wild" revenue growth, said head of the department of trade and services of Moscow Alexei Nemeryuk. "Even those places that do not broadcast football matches are overloaded," the official said, adding that most of the tourists prefer beer to other drinks.

According to Nemeryuk, since the beginning of the championship, income of the local cafes and restaurants on Nikolskaya Street has grown 2.5-3 times compared to the same period last year as well as a week before the tournament. Restaurants on Kuznetsky Most and Tverskaya Street enjoy similar income growth. In other regions, revenue increased by 50-150%, he added.

The founder and general director of the Teremok café chain, Mikhail Goncharov, says that on the first day of the Championship an outlet on Nikolskaya Street extended its working hours from 10 pm to midnight, but this was not enough. Now the restaurant is working 24/7 and the night’s revenue is equal to the day shift." As a result, sales have increased at least twice," Goncharov sums up. “The atmosphere there is crazy, fans stand in lines even at night. It is a pity that this is only for one month."

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Photo RBC

"I am working without days off, but there is nothing to do with it," says Anna, a manager of Varenichnaya No.1 cafe. “We have never complained about the number of guests, but now something incredible is going on. The number of orders increased for 200 a day, we are all working at the limit, very tired. "

Schokoladnitsa coffeehouse chain has prepared for the increase of a number of guests during the World Cup 2018 and developed special offers for fans, says managing director of the group of companies Alexei Kaira. "The number of guests has increased twice: our café on Nikolskaya Street is working 24/7, beer is the top position in the menu," he says. Revenue in the cafe on Nikolskaya has increased threefold.

"We were we looking forward to the Championship, and it absolutely met our expectations," says Anna Tsfasman, the founder of the Double B coffee house network. According to her, fans who spend time on Nikolskaya Street came to the coffeehouse for a cup to cheer up, as well as for cold drinks to "come to their senses after dancing and chanting."

Grocery stores on Nikolskaya also report a sharp increase of visitors. On the weekend of June 16-17, a number of visitors in Perekrestok Express store grew by more than 30%, said a representative of the network manager X5 Retail Group. Demand for drinks, tobacco, confectionery and snacks (chips) has increased dramatically, he noted.

The stores do not have shortage problems or with the delivery of goods, says Nemeryuk. Transportation is carried out in a regular mode. "There were no reports regarding this issue. No problems with the delivery either at Nikolskaya street or Stoleshnikov lane," the official said.

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Photo - RBC

GUM’s PR manager Olga Yudkis compares the excitement in the days of the World Cup with the New Year's Eve. "However we have not enjoyed such international and picturesque public for a long time," she adds.

Sold-out during unpacking

Souvenir shops in Nikolskaya, that were previously popular with tourists as well, expect a record revenue after the end of the World Cup. The RBC correspondent failed to talk to someone from the staff of souvenir shops for long - all the personnel, including managers and directors, were unpacking boxes with matryoshka dolls, ushankas, Zabivakas, T-shirts with Russian symbols and portraits of President Putin. "I am sorry, while we are unpacking them, everything is sold out," the manager of one of the shops explained, continuing to put a batch of magnets with the image of the famous Moscow buildings on the stand.

The rush in the morning is calmer only aloof from Nikolskaya, in a shop in Vetoshny Lane. "There is always a high demand for souvenirs here. It is clear, we do not work in Altufyevo (Moscow non-central district), so there are enough foreigners without the World Cup, - says merchant Dmitry wearing a Mexico national team's shirt. - But now the business is much better, of course. Fans have arrived, they are resting, they do not count money, they are exhilarated." Dmitry says that because of the influx of fans, the shop began to work in the until-the-last-customer mode: "Yesterday I left at 3 am, but why not - they walk, come in".

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Photo – RBC

Jewelry, especially items on Moscow theme, also sells well, administrator of Pandora shop in Nikolskaya Irina told RBC. "Sales-wise, we are hitting record numbers. Sales have soared twice or thrice compared to ordinary days," she says. According to Irina, a pendant with the Saint Basil's Cathedral is all the rage these days.

Non-medicinal assortment

Drugstore Rigla in Nikolskaya is uncrowded in the morning. "It is quiet here, the number of visitors may have slightly increased, but not dramatically, we do not witness lines of people. The main clients of the pharmacy these days are foreign fans," said consultant Aykhan.

According to the General Director of the chain, Alexander Filippov, the revenue of pharmacies in the central districts of the city has hiked 1.5 times in the last week. "Mainly due to the non-medicinal assortment," Filippov stressed.

"Obviously, condoms meet with a ready sale, their sales have grown very much over the past week," Aykhan clarifies the boss’s words. - However, for example, pills that alleviate a hangover, are not in high demand. It shows that strong guys came to us."

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Photo – RBC

Failed expectations

The main ‘victims’ of the invasion of fans to Nikolskaya are shops specializing in the sale of clothing, footwear, and perfumes. "It is quiet, foreigners do not buy much from us," the administrator of Flo-Jo clothes shop told RBC. - We expected sales: for example, if they are cold, they can buy a sweater or, if it is hot – a new T-shirt, but so far anything of this has happened. In the first two days since the beginning of the carnival, we did not earn anything at all, because the festive crowd merely blocked our front door. Our customers simply could not get through, and foreigners came here not for shopping, but to drink and have fun."

The same can be seen in other stores. "There are fewer visitors, because groups of fans just close the entrance with their posters, gather at the entrance, start yelling. We experience a tangible drop in revenue," says Irina, an employee with perfume store Novaya Zarya.

"Fans drop by in the afternoon when they are still able to buy something except for beer, and in the evening they are already boozy and not interested in clothes. The store’s working hours have been extended until 11 pm, but in the evening, when all the fun begins, there are no sales," admits Glenfield administrator Olga.

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Photo – RBC

Changes in consumption in Nikolskaya

According to company Evotor (manufacturer of online cash registers), if we compare the performance indicators of shops and restaurants in the pre-football days (June 7-11) and football ones (June 14-18), the points in Nikolskaya Street have seen the turnover increasing by an average of 32%, the number of checks - by 110%. That said, the sum of an average check has plummeted by 37%. To put this into context: in the same period, the turnover of trade points on Arbat has skyrocketed by 114%, the number of checks - by 80%, and an average check – by 19%.

"There are more souvenir shops in Arbat, and tourists buy more of such products, so all the indicators have grown here – both concerning the number of checks and average check," explained Evotor analyst Bayr Sangadzhiyev to RBC. - It Nikolskaya, as we see, tourists mainly spend money at food points, moreover, they come to have a hurried meal. The number of visitors has become obviously grown, but they spend less time in establishments."

"We have worked up a clear timetable in a week," says a waitress, who works in one of the cafes in Nikolskaya Street (she refused to give her name). – People start to come already at 10 am when most of the establishments open. In the morning they have breakfast, drink coffee, buy souvenirs. Everything is pretty calm, not much fanaticism is demonstrated. Since two o'clock preparations for the evening match begin - fans drink a huge amount of beer, rehearse songs and team fight song, warm up. Since 19-20 dances, hubbub, and fun already start. It is like this every day. Everything ends by morning."

"They all eat little and drink a lot," says Anna from Varenichnaya No. 1. "Everyone drinks, Mexicans, and even fans from Egypt and Morocco. The holiday is common, after all," - adds a waitress from Kofe Khauz.

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