Millions of consumers in the U.S. count on their local Walmart store to pick up weekly essentials—whether that's food, clothes, or other household supplies. But recently, a significant portion of those shoppers were locked out of their go-to locations as the big-box retailer underwent mass closures across several states. Now that most of these Walmart stores have reopened, the company is making another big change for shoppers. Read on to find out what the retailer will now let you do in stores.
Walmart recently had to close hundreds of stores.
As last month came to a close, Walmart was forced to shutter hundreds of locations temporarily due to a major natural disaster. Hurricane Ian made its first landfall in the U.S. on Sept. 28 on Florida's west coast as a dangerous Category 4 hurricane before hitting South Carolina two days later on Sept. 30 as a Category 1 storm, according to ABC News.
Over the course of several days, Walmart temporarily shuttered hundreds of stores in Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia. It's unclear exactly how many stores had to be closed, but on the morning of Sept. 29, the retailer's real-time closure map indicated that at least 244 locations throughout the four states were temporarily closed, The Miami Herald reported.
Most of these locations have since reopened.
Natural disasters are unpredictable, so Walmart gave no clear timeline as to when stores would be back in business. Some locations, however, started reopening as early as Sept. 28. "Regarding the loss of power and reopening after the storm's passing, we're actively taking steps now to give us the best opportunity to resume operations once it's safe to do so," Walmart Director of Corporate Communication Charles Crowson told The Miami Herald.
As of Oct. 3, Walmart's real-time map indicates that there are just two stores still closed throughout the four states. And only one appears to be related to the hurricane: a Walmart in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, is still listed as temporarily closed (a separate Walmart Supercenter in Peachtree City, Georgia, has been "closed temporarily until further notice" since late August due to a fire).
"Your Fort Myers Beach Walmart is down but we are far from out! We hear you Fort Myers Beach! Stay tuned for updates while we work to open! Stay strong and stay safe," the local Walmart's Facebook page posted on Oct. 2. The same account had written on Sept. 27 that it would be closing temporarily for the hurricane and would "reopen as soon as is safe for our associates and the community."
But Walmart is making a change in stores as they reopen.
As stores reopen after the mass closures from Hurricane Ian, Walmart isn't stopping its efforts to take care of impacted customers and associates. On Sept. 29, the big-box retailer released a press release to announce that it was "moving quickly to help" these communities, which includes a new donation initiative for shoppers in all states.
"Many of our associates, customers and members in the communities we serve across Florida are feeling the devastating effects of Hurricane Ian," Walmart said in its statement, adding in a separate Sept. 30 statement that, "As our stores in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina are now being impacted, we're standing by to support those communities" as well.
Walmart announced that it would be accepting donations from customers at the registers of its stores. And that's not all. The retailer said it "will help maximize their impact by matching contributions" when a customer donates at its register or through its associate giving program by up to $2.5 million.
"Our customers, members and associates are the most generous people we know," Walmart said, also noting that that "Walmart, Sam's Club and the Walmart Foundation are committing up to $6 million to recovery and relief efforts." The company explained, "This support will include donations of essential supplies and grants to organizations providing relief on the ground."
Walmart is not the only company stepping up.
Walmart is not alone in its efforts to help those recently affected by the deadly Hurricane Ian. Target, Home Depot, and Lowe's have all also committed to donating to the cause, according to Fox Business. Alongside Walmart, these retailers have collectively pledged up to $14 million to help provide emergency shelter, food, and other supplies to those affected by the storm.
"While we know recovery will take many months, we're here to help these communities return to some form of normalcy as soon as possible," Lowe's CEO Marvin Ellison told the news outlet. Other companies donating to relief efforts include Duke Energy, Publix, Tractor Supply, and Wells Fargo, per Fox Business.