Walmart expanding store hours, cutting in-store capacity restrictions

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Walmart is expanding its hours of operation and removing in-store capacity restrictions as the once-strict coronavirus-related protocols continue to ease around the country.  

Starting Saturday, stores will open an hour earlier – the new hours will be 6 a.m.-11 p.m. – unless it is mandated by state or local government, Walmart U.S. chief operating officer Dacona Smith said in a note to customers Tuesday.

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WMTWALMART, INC.141.40-0.21-0.15%

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"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," Smith said.

However, the first hour of every Tuesday morning will still be dedicated to seniors, anyone who is at least 60 years old, and customers who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, the retailer told USA Today.  

Starting July 3, the retailer will also resume its pre-coronavirus hours for most pharmacies and vision centers. Most pharmacies will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Vision centers will open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays. 

People wearing masks and gloves wait to checkout at Walmart in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

"When the pandemic started to hit hard early last year, we restricted our shopping hours," Smith added. "We said then that we would continue to stay very close to the best science and guidance around the virus and make business choices aimed at protecting the health and safety of our customers and associates." 

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In March 2020, Walmart – like most companies – had drastically reduced its hours with stores across the nation opening an hour later and closing by 8:30 p.m. local time. 

However, the company slowly began to extend its hours in August, pushing the closing time to 10 p.m. for more than 4,000 locations. 

By November, store hours were extended to 11 p.m. to provide "customers with greater options to shop for the food, medicine and supplies they need," the company said. 

WALMART TO EXTEND STORE HOURS AT MOST LOCATIONS

Although the company is making significant adjustments to its operations, officials acknowledged that "the pandemic is not over" and reiterated that safety is its first priority. 

For instance, customers who are not fully vaccinated are encouraged to wear masks or face coverings while shopping inside its stores and its associates will still be dedicated to sanitizing. 

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