After 33 years as a shopping mall mainstay, Mickey Mouse is mostly calling it a day.
The Walt Disney Company said on Wednesday that it would dramatically downsize its chain of Disney Stores, which have struggled amid the pandemic and a broader consumer shift to online shopping. At least 60 locations in North America — 30 percent of the Disney Store footprint in the region — will close this year.
The company described the closures as the “beginning” of its downsizing effort. A significant number of overseas stores are also expected to close. According to its 2020 annual report, Disney has about 60 stores in Europe.
The Disney Store chain was founded in 1987 and once numbered more than 1,000 locations worldwide. For a time in the early 1990s, during a boom for shopping malls, Disney even experimented with an adjacent spinoff chain of Mickey’s Kitchen restaurants, where items included Dumbo burgers, Pinocchio pizzas and fries shaped like Donald Duck.
Disney redesigned many Disney Store locations in 2017 in an attempt to boost business, incorporating live video feeds from its theme parks and shifting the merchandise mix away from toys and toward fashion-conscious young adults. Results were mixed. In 2019, as shopping malls continued to struggle, Disney expanded its merchandising presence at Target stores, a move that analysts viewed as the beginning of the end for the stand-alone Disney Store business.
ShopDisney, the company’s online store, will expand over the next year and become more integrated with Disney’s theme park apps and social media platforms, according to Stephanie Young, president of Disney Consumer Products, Games and Publishing.
A day after Gov. Greg Abbott said he would lift Texas’s mask requirement and allow businesses to fully reopen, several companies said they would continue to require face coverings in the state. But industry groups are worried that businesses will not be able to enforce such policies once Texas and other states no longer require masks.
Target and Macy’s said they would continue to require customers and employees to wear masks in their Texas outlets. And Kroger, the grocery chain, said it would require everyone in its stores nationwide to wear masks until its frontline workers are vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The responsibility for mask enforcement will likely fall on the shoulders of frontline workers, who have been repeatedly harassed by customers who refuse to adhere to the policies.
“We support governors reopening their economies and giving beleaguered restaurants and other small businesses the opportunity to rebuild and rehire workers,” said Jason Brewer, the executive vice president of communications for the Retail Industry Leaders Association. “But going backward on safety measures will unfairly put retail employees back in the role of enforcing guidelines still recommended by the C.D.C. and other public health advocates.”
Texas officials had done little to enforce their own mask policies, largely relying on businesses and social stigma to uphold the rules. The role individuals and businesses play will now become even more important, some industry executives said.
“As we have seen throughout the pandemic, states and municipalities have mandated mask policies, yet have failed to provide any enforcement mechanisms,” Bill Thorne, an executive at the National Retail Federation, said in a statement.
Small business owners in Texas posted mixed reactions to the Mr. Abbott’s announcement on LinkedIn.
“We are so thankful that our local restaurants and other businesses that survive on retail/walk-in consumers are going to be able to get back to it,” wrote Jerry Drew, the chief executive of Network Thermostat, an electronics manufacturer in Grapevine, near Dallas. “Happy Days!”
Others were not so enthusiastic.
“I think the governor’s decision is a bad one,” wrote Gary Murray Sr., the owner of a fencing club in Round Rock, a suburb of Austin. “It is premature, reckless and I truly believe that he is being pressured by outside sources with no regard for health and safety.”
Philanthropic giving in response to the Covid-19 pandemic topped $20 billion last year, orders of magnitude more than past disasters, man-made or natural, according to a report released Wednesday by the groups Candid and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.
The total includes global giving by foundations, corporations, public charities and wealthy individuals.
“It’s far and away more than we have ever seen for disasters,” said Grace Sato,…