Walmart announced late Wednesday (March 18) it will begin reducing store hours from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily in order to allow employees more time to clean and restock busy stores. The new hours are effective on March 19 in all U.S. stores.
The change is related to what is called “panic buying” by the public in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. The buying has resulted in an inability by many retailers to adequately keep shelves stocked, especially with toilet paper, hand sanitizer and other home health products.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said the ongoing pandemic outbreak of respiratory disease is caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in China. It has now been detected in more than 150 locations internationally, including in the United States. The U.S. has more than 8,000 cases with 108 deaths. To date, there have been more than 179,000 reported cases of coronavirus and more than 7,400 deaths globally.
Walmart said while the store hours will change, employees will have access to their regular scheduled shifts and full hours.
From March 24 through April 28, Walmart said it is offering special shopping hours for older customers who are more vulnerable to the coronavirus. During this time Walmart will host an hour-long senior shopping event every Tuesday for customers aged 60 and older. This will start one hour before the store opens to the public. The pharmacies and vision center will also be open during that special shopping time for seniors.
“Our associates have been nothing short of heroic in their commitment to serve customers, stock shelves as quickly as possible and keep their stores clean. When their communities needed them the most, our people have been at their best. Their efforts continue to be a tremendous source of pride for everyone at Walmart,” said Dacona Smith, chief operating officer for Walmart U.S.
Smith said there will be enforced item limitations on a number of products to ensure more customers have access to the things they need.
“Our stores will have limits for customers on milk, eggs, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, water, diapers, wipes, formula and baby food,” Smith said.
Smith said Walmart auto services will be temporarily close to allow those employees to help with re-stocking and cleaning stores. The vision center will keep normal schedules.
“We are paying very close attention to our stores and communities and will continue making the necessary changes to help make sure our associates are taken care of and that our customers can get what they need. Let’s all take care of each other out there,” Smith said.