Walmart Is Extending Its Store Hours. Here's Why

Can we call it a step toward "back to normal?" Most Walmart stores have been staying open later recently (via CNN) after the retailer decided to close early back in March due to COVID-19. Most Walmarts were open around the clock before the pandemic, but COVID-19 changed everything having to do with shopping. Many businesses closed their doors. Essential operations such as Walmart could remain open, but that company along with other retailers decided to limit their hours. Walmart announced on March 18 that its U.S. stores would only be open from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. The down time would give employees a chance to sanitize and restock without bumping into customers. Walmart is not back to doing in-store business 24 hours a day, but by Monday, August 17, more than 4,000 of the retailer's 4,700 U.S. stores are staying open until 10 p.m. This will provide customers "with greater options to shop for the food, medicine, and supplies they need," the retail chain said on its website.

Walmart is keeping the same new opening time of 7 a.m. and will continue to open, for seniors only, at 6 a.m. on Tuesdays. Of course, all Walmart shoppers must still wear a face mask, a policy the company instituted on July 20. Walmart also continues to restrict traffic flow at its stores by designating a single entrance and a single exit, and limiting the number of customers to 20 percent of normal capacity (via Supermarket News).

Walmart's extended hours help with social distancing

Cases of COVID-19 have been declining in recent weeks, from a peak of an average of 66,000 U.S. cases per day in mid-July to about 52,000 average cases a day now (via The New York Times). But the new hours at Walmart aren't happening because the disease is slowing down. The CDC's recommendations for grocery shopping and other errands haven't changed: Don't shop while sick, shop online when possible, practice social distancing, and wash your hands after you return home. Walmart told CNN the added hours would make it easier for customers to social-distance because they would be spread out over a longer period of time. Retail advisor Neil Saunders noted to CNN that the extended hours also would be more convenient for shoppers and would help employees get ready for the upcoming holiday season.

Target stores moved their closing time from 10 p.m. to 9 p.m. in March, then resumed normal hours in June (via USA Today). Kroger stores had also returned to normal business hours by June in certain regions (via WDBJ7). Plexiglas barriers, social-distancing requirements, and other safety measures remain in place at various retailers.