Walmart May Never Lift This Major COVID Restriction
This could end up being the retailer's new normal after the pandemic.
During the pandemic, major retailers have had to make significant changes to the way they operate to help mitigate the spread of COVID. For its part, Walmart limited store capacity and implemented mask requirements at all locations last year. Now, nearly two years into the pandemic, many of these changes have been reversed. The retailer no longer requires masks to be worn in stores, although it encourages it, and it's no longer limiting the number of customers that can shop in stores at one time. But there is one COVID restriction Walmart has hinted may never end. Read on to find out what one change may become part of the retailer's new normal.
Walmart says it has no plans to return to 24-hour service any time soon.
If you've been hoping that Walmart is going to revert some of its locations back to 24-hour service soon, prepare to be disappointed. Charles Crowson, Walmart's press office director, told NBC-affiliate 6 News in Temple, Texas, that none of the retailer's locations would be staying open 24 hours a day, seven days a week—even as the holiday shopping season rolls in.
"During COVID, Walmart adjusted its store hours to 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. local time. There are no plans at this time to modify those hours," Crowson told the news outlet in an email.
The retailer did expand the hours it had cut during the pandemic earlier this year.
Walmart cut down its hours during the height of the pandemic last year. According to USA Today, most stores were open from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. for five months, and then some store times were extended to 10 and 11 p.m. in Aug. and Nov. 2020. The retailer also extended all hours earlier this year: According to a Walmart announcement released in June, store hours for all locations reverted back to 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on June 5, "unless otherwise mandated by state or local government." The retailer also resumed pre-COVID hours for most of its pharmacies and vision centers in July, with most pharmacies and vision centers open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
"When the pandemic started to hit hard early last year, we restricted our shopping hours," Dacona Smith, the executive vice president and chief operating officer for Walmart U.S., said at the time. "As COVID-19 cases leveled out, we expanded our closing time late last year and now, with the number of fully vaccinated Americans growing higher every day, we believe we can adjust hours once again."
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Some shoppers have said that they want 24-hour service back at Walmart.
While some customers may be just fine doing their shopping during the new Walmart hours, not all shoppers have gotten over the convenience of 24-hour Walmart locations. "I know this is said pretty often but I desperately need Walmart to be 24 hours again," one Twitter user said on Nov. 21. On Nov. 22, another user tweeted, "Things we took for granted was Walmart being open 24 hours."
An official Twitter account for the retailer recently responded to a user who asked when Walmart was going to open back up 24 hours. "We don't have any plans on returning to 24 hours but you can always shop online anytime," Walmart Help's Twitter account said on Nov. 15.
Walmart had started cutting 24-hour service at some stores before the pandemic.
Reducing store hours was not solely a result of the pandemic. In 2019, Walmart eliminated 24-hour service at around 100 of its stores in the U.S, NBC-affiliate WJAC in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, reported at the time. A spokesperson for the retailer told the news outlet that the cuts were made at various stores to make sure associates are working when and where customers need them the most. Walmart said that its statistics at the time showed that most people were shopping at the retailer's stores between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., and not at night during extended 24-hour operations.
"By shifting these hours, we're able to make sure more associates are on the floor during peak customer times, resulting in better customer service," Justin Rushing, a Walmart spokesperson, told WJAC.