St Gobain says closes retail business in Shanghai

Saint-Gobain (SGOB.PA), the world's largest building materials company, said it has closed one of its retail operations in Shanghai.

The move comes after U.S. consumer electronics retailer Best Buy Co Inc (BBY.N) last month shut down its self-branded stores in China and toymaker Mattel Inc's (MAT.O) closure of its flagship Barbie store in Shanghai.

Saint-Gobain will close all seven "La Maison" outlets in Shanghai given dwindling demand for interior settings from individuals, Nicolas Nie, external affairs director at Saint-Gobain China, said.

"More and more housing and apartments sold already come with interior settings so the total market is shrinking," he said.

"China is a new market and we are at a stage where we are evaluating what's a good model for the Chinese market."

La Maison makes up for less than 1 percent of Saint-Gobain's total sales in China and the building materials giant has other retail and wholesale operations in Shanghai and the rest of China, Nie said.

The group, which competes with Owens Illinois (OI.N) and CRH (CRH.I), manufactures and distributes construction products such as pipes, ceramics and flat glass. Its materials were used to build the Louvre Pyramid in Paris and London's Gherkin tower.

Global retailers are eager to tap China's massive consumer market, but getting people in the world's most populous nation to open their wallets is not as easy as it seems.

Best Buy said last month it would focus its business on wholly-owned subsidiary Five Star, which has nearly 170 smaller stores in seven Chinese provinces. [ID:nN2178940]

Mattel confirmed reports on Tuesday that it had shut its six-storey flagship store, saying it wanted to focus on the broader Chinese market rather than just China's commercial hub. [ID:nL3E7E8064] (Reporting by Kazunori Takada; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

600450 St Gobain says closes retail business in Shanghai
Date: 14 March 2011

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