CVS and Walmart Are Cutting Pharmacy Hours, Starting in March
Both drugstores are feeling the effects of a nationwide pharmacist shortage.
Unless your hometown still has a local pharmacy you can rely on, odds are you fill your prescriptions at a larger chain. CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens are among the biggest drugstores, but general retailers like Walmart and Target also boast their own in-store pharmacies. All of these retailers, however, share a common conundrum: a nationwide pharmacist shortage. As a result, both CVS and Walmart confirmed they are cutting pharmacy hours this spring. Read on to find out how hours are shifting and when.
READ THIS NEXT: Walgreens and CVS Are Closing Locations, Starting Tuesday.
Walmart pharmacies will close two hours earlier.
By March, Walmart plans to shorten pharmacy hours at about 4,600 stores nationwide, The Wall Street Journal reported, closing at 7 p.m. every night instead of 9 p.m.
In a statement to Best Life, a Walmart spokesperson said the change is being made to improve work-life balance for pharmacists, while still serving customers.
"This change is a direct result of feedback from our pharmacy associates and listening to our customers," the spokesperson said. "By positioning our teams in the hours where our customers say they want to visit our pharmacy, we are better able to deliver excellent customer service and support our associates as they continue to serve their communities every day."
The Wall Street Journal also points out that some Walmart pharmacies already close before 9 p.m., so the policy will standardize these hours.
CVS is slashing hours at 9,000 stores.
CVS is also cutting hours at roughly two-thirds of its retail pharmacies, starting in March, a company spokesperson told Best Life. New hours will vary by location, they said, explaining that CVS reviews operating hours "to make sure we're open during peak customer demand."
"From time to time, this may result in a shift in pharmacy hours," the spokesperson said. "By adjusting hours in select stores this spring, we ensure our pharmacy teams are available to serve patients when they're most needed. If a pharmacy is closed, a patient can visit any open CVS Pharmacy location for assistance with their immediate prescription needs."
Reduced hours will also be in effect when stores only have one pharmacist working, The Wall Street Journal reported, per the company's recent notice to field leaders. This is a "top pain point" for its pharmacists, CVS said.
RELATED: For more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
The pharmacist shortage is not new.
This isn't the first time customers have seen reduced pharmacy hours due to staffing limitations—both CVS and Walgreens were forced to shorten hours or even close on weekends at the height of the COVID pandemic, The Wall Street Journal reported. Walmart, too, cut overall store hours in light of reduced staff.
More recently, in Nov. 2022, both CVS and Walgreens cut pharmacy hours on the West Coast. Walgreens locations shortened their hours—or even closed stores entirely–in Berkeley, California, due to "the ongoing national labor shortage," a spokesperson previously told Best Life. CVS locations in Arcata, California, also had limited pharmacy staff, making it difficult for stores to maintain standard operating hours, ABC-affiliate KRCR reported.
But the pharmacist shortage itself was an issue even before the pandemic, according to The Wall Street Journal, and it continues to plague these chains. Walgreens and CVS attempted to incentivize pharmacists with bonuses, increased pay, and even a universal lunch break, while Walmart raised pay for pharmacy techs to an average of $20 an hour.
Still, pharmacists are overworked, and many are opting to work at hospitals or other employers, The Wall Street Journal reported. And with fewer people applying to pharmacy school—numbers are down by over a third since 2013—there's potential for things to get worse before they get better.
CVS and Walgreens also have plans to close locations.
In addition to reduced hours, both CVS and Walgreens recently confirmed plans to close several locations.
Walgreens is closing a store in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago on Jan. 31, and another store in Houston, Missouri, on March 7. The pharmacy in a St. Johnsbury, Vermont Walgreens is shuttering as well, effective Feb. 22. Earlier this month, a company spokesperson stated that Walgreens is looking to create "the right network of stores in the right locations," taking into consideration "the dynamics of the local market and changes in the buying habits of our patients and customers."
CVS also previously confirmed to Best Life that a CVS store in Washington, D.C., is closing on Feb. 27. When asked about the reason for the closure, the company spokesperson cited factors such as "local market dynamics, population shifts, a community's store density, and ensuring there are other geographic access points to meet the needs of the community, including COVID-19 testing and vaccinations."