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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Business in brief: GuestHouse deal extends Red Lion Hotels’ reach

From staff and wire reports

Red Lion Hotels will buy 73 franchise license agreements for $8.5 million from GuestHouse International LLC.

The deal is the latest step in the Spokane-based hotelier’s strategy of expanding the reach of its brand without owning more buildings.

The acquisition of GuestHouse brings the Red Lion to 130 hotels in 30 states, up from 57 hotels now.

Greg Mount, CEO of Red Lion, said the GuestHouse and Settle Inn brands fit as a natural expansion of the company. He said Red Lion will use its business connections and programs to boost the financial performance of the hotel groups.

Jobless aid numbers signal fewer layoffs

WASHINGTON – The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits was little changed last week, evidence that employers are cutting few jobs.

Weekly applications for jobless aid ticked up 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 295,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased to 284,500. Still, that is just 2,000 higher than three weeks ago when the average was at a nearly 15-year low.

Ford cuts plant shift, citing sales slowdown

DETROIT – Ford Motor Co. said Thursday it’s laying off 700 workers at a Michigan assembly plant because of slow sales of the small cars and hybrids it makes.

The Michigan Assembly Plant, in the Detroit suburb of Wayne, will move from three shifts to two starting June 22, spokeswoman Kristina Adamski said. The plant, which makes the Ford Focus and C-Max hybrid, has been operating on three shifts since 2012.

It’s the first time since 2009 that Ford has cut a shift at a U.S. plant.

NEW YORK – Starbucks is extracting more money from customers with offerings like a “Flat White” espresso drink and revamped baked goods that cost a little more.

The Seattle-based chain reported a higher quarterly profit Thursday, with sales jumping 7 percent at established U.S. stores. The company said much of the increase came from higher spending per visit.

New drinks like the “Flat White” espresso drink and Teavana “Shaken” iced teas help drive up sales because they’re a little pricier than other drinks, Starbucks Chief Financial Officer Scott Maw said. He noted the company is also charging more for baked goods like croissants, which are being made with new recipes.

“What we’re seeing is a premiumization, a trade-up,” Maw said in an interview.

During its second fiscal quarter, Starbucks said its U.S. sales bump was also helped by a 2 percent uptick in customer traffic, which translated into an additional 10 million visits. That was driven in part by people coming in to redeem the $1.6 billion that was loaded onto gift cards during the holidays.

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