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Key Spanish retailer posts record loss

Published on June 04, 2021

Spain’s venerable department store group El Corte Ingles, a barometer of the Spanish economy, reported Friday a record annual loss due to pandemic lockdowns and a collapse in tourism.

One of Spain’s biggest private employers, the company posted a net loss of 2.9 billion euros ($3.5 billion) in the 12 months to the end of February, compared with a net profit of 310 million euros in the same period a year earlier.

If massive write-downs of 2.5 billion euros are excluded, the retailer said its net loss would total 445 million euros owing to “restrictions imposed due to Covid-19”.

Spain in mid-March 2020 imposed one of the world’s strictest coronavirus lockdowns with people ordered to stay home except to buy food or drugs, go to work or to seek medical care.

The lockdown measures were only fully removed at the end of June.

“This result is mainly due to the cessation of much of its activity during the lockdown…as well as to the total absence of tourism, both national and international,” the company said in a statement.

El Corte Ingles in February announced a plan to cut between 3,000 and 3,500 jobs through voluntary departures.

Created in 1940 in Madrid, the family-run business swallowed its only other department store competitor in Spain, Galerias Preciados, in 1995.

It has pushed into all areas of Spanish life, selling everything from designer fashion, televisions, car insurance, kitchens, package holidays and hearing aids.

The privately-owned firm owns swathes of property in prime Spanish retail locations as it operates department stores in the centre of virtually every major Spanish city.

Spain’s economy contracted sharply by 10.8 percent in 2020, one of the worst performers in the eurozone, with its key tourism sector battered by the pandemic travel restrictions.

The government expects the economy will expand by 6.5 percent in 2021.