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Walmart will stay open later, joining other chains

New York(CNN Business) Walmart will stay open later at most of its stores in the United States, joining other large chains that have started to stay open longer than they did during the early days of the pandemic.

The retailer in recent weeks has extended some stores' closing time from 8:30pm to 10pm. By Monday, more than than 4,000 of its 4,700 US stores will start closing later, the company said Friday. All Walmart stores will continue opening at 7am, except on Tuesdays, when stores open an hour early for seniors.

Walmart is adding hours as coronavirus cases spike in much of the country.

A Walmart spokesperson said the additional hours will allow customers to spread out over a longer period of time. Social distancing is important to prevent the spread of the virus, and Walmart has added distancing decals on the floor and capacity limits in stores.

Stretching out hours also will make it more convenient for customers, said Neil Saunders, managing director at advisory firm GlobalData Retail. Making this change now allows workers to get adjusted to the extended hours before shopping ramps up in the busier holiday quarter, Saunders said.

In March, Walmart stores, most of which normally were open 24 hours a day, began closing overnight in response to the coronavirus outbreak. At the time, the company said shortening store hours would "further help" employees restock shelves overnight and clean stores.

The Walmart spokesperson said it will continue the same cleaning protocols with its extended hours and will "continue assessing our remaining stores to determine the right time to expand their closing hours."

Walmart (WMT), the country's largest retailer, was designated as an essential business when the pandemic hit, allowing it to stay open as other retailers had to shut their doors. The company has hired 200,000 new employees in recent months to meet customer demand.

Other top retailers and grocers also shortened operating hours to step up cleaning procedures and restock shelves during the initial stages of the outbreak, but have since extended their hours.

Kroger (KR), for example, said in June it has decided to return to regular store hours in parts of the South and Midwest in part because it hired more workers.

"We've expanded our supply chain, enhanced cleaning procedures in our stores and hired more than 100,000 new workers," a Kroger spokesperson previously told CNN Business. "These steps have allowed us to expand store hours in select areas to safely meet the evolving needs of our customers as the country moves toward reopening."

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