Walmart stores are about to stay open a little later than usual.
The big-box chain announced that it would extend the operating hours at more than 4,000 of its 4,700 locations in the United States by an hour and a half following months of reduced business hours amid the coronavirus pandemic. Starting today, its closing time has been moved from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
According to the company, the decision would offer customers “greater options to shop for the food, medicine and supplies they need.”
Walmart will continue to host a senior shopping hour every Tuesday before outposts open — from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. — for shoppers aged 60 and older as well as individuals who might be more vulnerable to the virus. (Walmart’s pharmacies and vision centers will also be open at this time.) The retailer has also invited high-risk customers to shop through drive-thru, no-contact curbside pickup and mail delivery services.
COVID-19 has sickened more than 5.4 million people in the U.S. and led to at least 170,000 deaths. To help keep employees and guests safe, Walmart is requiring the use of face masks, which are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to slow the spread of the illness, at its stores, clubs, distribution and fulfillment centers, as well as in its corporate offices.
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What’s more, the Bentonville, Ark.-based company said that its associates are committed to cleaning high-traffic and high-touch areas like checkouts and shopping carts. It has also installed sneeze guards in its pharmacy and register lanes, plus floor decals at both the entrances and checkouts to encourage social distancing. For shoppers, Walmart units have a single designated entrance and another designated exit. It added that it was limiting the number of people in a store at a given time; no more than five customers are allowed for each 1,000 square feet, or roughly 20% of an outpost’s capacity.
Due to its status as an essential retailer, Walmart continued to operate throughout the health crisis. It recorded heightened demand as panicked shoppers loaded up on household essentials, leading it to hire tens of thousands of workers to keep up with the surge in orders. The chain is set to report second-quarter earnings tomorrow.