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April 19, 2012

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Venerated bakery closing stores

RESIDENTS holding prepaid vouchers of Chantilly, a 20-year-old bakery chain, were left in the lurch after they found the stores were shut down one by one in the city's downtown areas.

Fearing their coupons may be nullified, the residents wondered whether the famous local brand, which used to operate about 70 stores across the city, is now facing financial problems or even bankruptcy as it had to close its major shops.

"I was shocked when I entered a Chantilly shop on Wusheng Road near People's Square as the counter was empty as if the store had just been robbed," said a resident surnamed Li. "The entire shop only had seven pieces of bread and cakes. In the meantime, the shop assistant asked me to buy them all so she can get off work earlier."

Some residents complained that an online search showed the chain had 69 shops across the city, but when they called the shops, many turned out to be closed or replaced by other stores.

"I still have several hundred yuan in prepaid vouchers but with the stores vanishing one by one, I don't know where I can exchange them for bread and cakes," said another resident surnamed Wang.

Xie Jing, a senior official with Chantilly, told Shanghai Daily the number of chain stores in the city has been reduced to 14 because many are facing operational difficulties.

"We have to shut down some stores in the downtown areas because of rising production and rental costs and rather low sales volumes due to fierce competition in the bakery industry," said Xie.

Despite its 20-year history in the city, the bakery can no longer compete in traditional ways with other new bakery chains that have come into the city and covered each corner with branches, said Xie.

"To survive the competition, we have to cut the number of chain stores and develop new business, such as opening online stores or taking orders directly from big companies," said Xie.

She said consumers didn't have to worry about the prepaid vouchers as they can still use them at the remaining 14 stores.

She promised that they will not be closed real soon.

Some people said the bakery may have lost its battle with new bakery chains in services and ideas. "It was famous and popular before, but it didn't change with the market," said Wang.


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