DISNEY TO CLOSE AT LEAST 60 STORES IN NORTH AMERICA. The entertainment giant will shift more attention to online sales and close storefronts to save rent as more shoppers buy from its Internet sites.
“While consumer behavior has shifted toward online shopping, the global pandemic has changed what consumers expect from a retailer,” Stephanie Young, president of Disney’s consumer products, games, and publishing operations, said in a statement announcing the closures.
Disney’s parks, experiences, and products division lost $119 million in its most recent quarter, the company reported last month, compared to a $2.5-billion profit for the period a year previous.
DINE BRANDS GLOBAL GOES HUNGRY IN FOURTH QUARTER. The owner of the Applebee’s and IHOP restaurant chains reported losing $1.56 million in 2020’s final quarter, compared to a profit of $27.4 million in the same period in 2019.
Revenue for the period fell to $196 million from $227.5 year on year.
Sales for the period were off 18 percent for Applebee’s and 30 percent for IHOP.
At the end of 2020, about 400 of the company’s dining rooms were closed. Now, however, almost all of Applebee’s 1,600 seating areas have reopened, the company said.
LUFTHANSA SAYS NO RECOVERY UNTIL 2025. Germany’s flagship airline lost a record €5.5 billion last year, flew 74 percent fewer passengers than in 2019 and says it will not regain 90 percent of its pre-pandemic schedules and passenger levels until 2025 at the earliest.
The airline received a €9-billion bailout from Austria, Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland last year, with the German government buying 20 percent of the company.
Still, Lufthansa is burning through €300 million a month, it said in announcing its 2020 results, and warned it likely will fly this year at no more than 50 percent of its 2019 capacity.
The carrier plans to permanently retire 100 passenger jets and lop another 10,000 workers from its payroll after cutting 30,000 last year. That will leave Lufthansa with about 100,000 employees.
In January, global air passenger traffic was 72 percent below that in the same month in 2020, according to the International Air Transport Association.
QANTAS URGES HALT TO BORDER CLOSURES. Australia’s national airline has warned that closing the country’s borders during the current vaccination campaign could result in “huge” layoffs by the carrier.
Qantas, which slashed its payroll and grounded most of its fleet in 2020, reported in late February that it has lost $1 billion during the first half of its current fiscal year.
Bookings could reach 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels by November, in time for the December travel season, if Australia concludes a successful vaccination program by its target date of late October, CEO Andrew David told a parliamentary committee last week.
Qantas projects it will not return to its 2019 schedules and passenger volumes until 2024.
WASHINGTON PRIME GROUP SAID TO BE PREPARING FOR BANKRUPTCY. The real estate trust, which owns about 100 shopping malls across the U.S., missed a $23-million interest payment on its debt last month. 
That failure began a 30-day grace period, during with the company is said to be in discussions with lenders. However, those discussions have not been productive, Bloomberg reported.
Washington is preparing a bankruptcy plan in case the talks fail, Bloomberg said.
The company’s malls are largely graded B and C, meaning that their stores bring in fewer dollars per square foot than prime A-grade sites.
Washington’s shares fell as much as 63 percent on the news, dropping further on 5 March to close at $2. The company’s stock price has fallen about 80 percent over the past 12 months.
In November, mall owners CBL and Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust filed for bankruptcy in the wake of the months-long economic shutdown.
EL CORTE INGLÈS SHUTS STORES, LAYS OFF 3,500. One of Europe’s largest retailers, the Spanish chain, will abandon 12 of its 100 stores in its native country and cut 3,500 workers from its payroll, the largest layoff in the company’s 81-year history.
The company attributed the moves to economic damage done during the pandemic and national lockdown. However, the chain’s stores were closed for only six weeks and, from June through August, El Cortes reported a €64-million profit.
The company began closing stores in 2019, with storefronts going dark in Seville and Cadiz. The latest closure, in the city of Linares, will cancel 223 jobs in a city with Spain’s highest unemployment rate at more than 30 percent among adults and 50 percent among youth.
Joblessness there sparked street protests, which police put down with pellet ammunition.
Unions representing the newly-unemployed workers did not protest the layoffs but pledged to seek termination payments for the workers “above legal limits.” 

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