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Mall operator Brookfield Properties laying off 20% of retail staff

Brookfield Properties, one of the largest mall operators in the U.S., is cutting 20 per cent of its workforce in its retail division, as the pandemic has accelerated online shopping and resulted in a string of store closings.

The Chicago-based company operates 170 mall properties and has more than 2,000 employees in its retail division, according to the company. It is a division of Toronto-based Brookfield

The news came as luxury fashion firm Ralph Lauren Corp. said that it was cutting 15 per cent of its workforce by the end of its fiscal year, which ends in March. The layoffs come as it accelerates its online operations and tries to become more nimble. The New York-based company estimated that it will incur total pretax charges of about $120 million to $160 million.

Brookfield and Ralph Lauren join a growing list of retailers and mall operators that have cut staff in recent months as the pandemic forced the temporary closure of non-essential retailers. Last week, department store chain Kohl’s Corp. said it was cutting 15 per cent of its workforce.

“2020 has had a profound impact on us all, both personally and professionally,” Jared Chupaila, CEO of Brookfield Properties’ retail group, wrote in a email to its employees. “”Our business has been frustrated, interrupted and constrained. All of our constituents — retailers, lenders, communities, partners and our own employees— have been affected by the events of this year and forced to revisit their relationships with our industry and our company.”

Brookfied malls include the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu and Mizner Park in Boca Raton, Florida.

Chupaila noted in the email, furnished by the company, that while other companies were quick to furlough and lay off people at the onset of the pandemic, it made the “conscious decision” to keep all of its team employed while it gained a better understanding of its long-term impact on the company.

Chupaila said that starting Tuesday and continuing Wednesday, affected employees will be contacted directly by leaders from their department and human resource team member.

News of the layoffs was first reported by CNBC.

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