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Walmart to close nationwide stores on Thanksgiving Day for the first time in decades

Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, recently announced that its nationwide stores will be closed this Thanksgiving.

Walmart U.S. president and CEO John Furner made the declaration in an internal memo to employees, informing them of the change in holiday schedule and another bonus they would pay out this August.

Typically, stores are teeming with people during Thanksgiving as it’s the start of the holiday shopping season and Black Friday weekend. Last year, Walmart kicked off its Black Friday sale in stores at 6 p.m. local time on Thanksgiving Day but offered many online deals earlier. However, that won’t be the case this year.

“We know holiday shopping will be different this year, and we will be managing sales events differently,” Furner wrote. “Our best ideas come from our associates, and this year we have decided to close our stores on Thanksgiving Day – November 26.”

The employee who suggested the idea to corporate headquarters was Kevin Carlyle, who works at a store in Round Rock, Texas.

It’s the first time since the late 1980s that Walmart will close its nearly 5,000 nationwide stores for Thanksgiving, the company told USA Today. Christmas is the only day each year when most of its locations are closed.

The holiday schedule change was also part of efforts to protect its employees from contracting the coronavirus. The U.S. is seeing a rising number of COVID-19 cases each day, and a large number of shoppers gathered in one area could increase the risk of transmission.

The move is also Walmart’s way of showing its staff that they appreciate their efforts amid these unprecedented times.

“We know this has been a trying year, and our associates have stepped up. We hope they will enjoy a special Thanksgiving Day at home with their loved ones,” Furner said in a statement. “We are certainly thankful to our people for all of their efforts.”

The day before Thanksgiving (Nov. 25), Walmart nationwide stores and Sam’s Club locations will operate with regular hours. Store and club hours on Black Friday (Nov. 27) will be released on a later date, a news release from the company said. This schedule isn’t new for Sam’s Club locations, as they’re traditionally closed on the holiday.

Walmart locations have reduced their operating hours since March during the onset of the coronavirus. Most of its branches are open from 7 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. daily. Both Walmart and Sam’s Club have recently made precautionary changes to their store policies, including limiting the number of customers in stores and requiring all shoppers to wear masks.

In the memo, Furner also mentioned that Walmart and Sam’s Club are giving their staff another bonus worth approximately $428 million. This is the third special bonus the company has offered to their workers to assist them amid the coronavirus pandemic. They received the first bonus in April and the second one in June.

“You’ve been working at an incredible pace, you’ve solved problems, and you’ve set an amazing example for others,” the CEO wrote. “To further appreciate the work that’s being done throughout our stores and supply chain, we’re pleased to announce another special cash bonus for the summer.”

The bonus is $300 for full-time hourly associates and drivers and $150 for part-time hourly and temporary staff who work in stores, supply chains, clubs, and offices employed as of July 31. The bonuses will be part of their August 20 paychecks. Drivers, managers, and assistant managers working in distribution and fulfillment centers will also receive a cash bonus for their efforts, but no specific amount was disclosed.

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