Why Walmart is making a permanent change to its shopping hours

Walmart had been having a pretty rough go of things over the course of the past year, closing down store after store as profits continued to slide due to the rising cost and reduced availability of imported goods as well as competition from a certain unnamed online retail juggernaut named after a mythical race of female warriors. Then along came 2020, and with it, a worldwide pandemic, which meant yet more challenges for the once-invincible retail giant. Suddenly Walmart was having to deal with such issues as panic-buying, interruptions in the supply chain, and an endangered workforce as well as a huge surge in demand for its grocery delivery service.

So how did Walmart face its new challenges? They tried to put in place the same social distancing measures and health precautions as did most other major grocery chains, but they also had to cut back their shopping hours at many stores nationwide. 

Now, however, as things are getting back to, well, somewhat more normal(ish) as the COVID-19 virus seems to have slowed its spread, why is Walmart announcing that it is keeping one of the changes it made regarding its hours of operation?

Walmart wants to keep seniors safe

The reason for Walmart's permanent change is an altruistic one. During the height of the pandemic, as it became clear that individuals over the age of 60 were in a higher-risk group for contracting the virus, many stores implemented certain "seniors only" shopping hours where only folks over a certain age (plus caregivers, if needed) were allowed in the store for a less-crowded shopping experience. Well, it seems Walmart has chosen to extend its senior hour, which takes place every Tuesday from 6 to 7 a.m., for the time being.

Walmart originally announced that its senior hour for shoppers aged 60-plus would extend through the end of May, but USA Today reports that Walmart will now extend those hours indefinitely.

Other major retailers are taking similar steps

Quite a few other retailers are following suit with designated senior hours, including Costco, Target, Sam's Club, and Dollar Tree, although it is unclear in each case just how long "indefinitely" is going to last.

Naveen Jaggi, who is president of retail advisory services at the brokerage firm JLL, doesn't expect senior hours to continue much longer once stores return to operating at pre-pandemic levels, as he says "retail thrives best when available to everyone." Still, how much demand is there for 6 a.m. shopping at Walmart, anyway? One hour a week, for a population who may prefer not to be run down by rambunctious toddlers — is that really too much to ask? As with so much else these days, we'll just have to wait and see.