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    Round-the-Clock Retail Service Sees Cutbacks

    Walmart has selectively ended its 24-hour schedule at some stores, but insists it is not the start of a trend.

    INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Round-the-clock service has been a hallmark of Walmart's business model, but 24/7 convenience may not last, as the retail leader cuts back operating hours at certain stores, according to an Indianapolis Star report.

    Four Walmarts in the Indianapolis region have gone from all-day service to closing between midnight and 6 a.m., joining locations in Montgomery, Ala., Fayetteville, N.C. and Baltimore, the paper reported.

    However, the company disputes the notion that this is a trend in the works. "This is market by market. This reflects our ability to make sure our stores reflect the community; make sure the hours are consistent with what our customers are doing," said Walmart spokesman Daniel Morales. "Some stores, customers do tend to shop at off hours. Some they don't."

    Other Indianapolis Walmarts may also cut back their hours depending on what makes sense for the individual locations, Morales noted, but the company as a whole is not seeking to end 24-hour service.

    Other large chains such as Kroger, Meijer and Marsh have stated their commitment to keeping round-the-clock operating hours. While fewer consumers may shop overnight, the ability to do so builds long-term loyalty, retail professor Richard Feinberg of Purdue University told the Star.

    "A retailer does not want to build any other habit from a customer than shopping in its store," said Feinberg. "So, even if it is not cost-effective for those overnight hours, it builds loyalty, which feeds the profitability of the other hours."

    Walmart isn't blind to this fact; a new 24-hour store is planned for Fort Wayne, Ind. The bottom line is whether the profits from late-night hours are worth it.

    "Walmart probably figured out the sales from midnight to 6 a.m. just weren't worth the effort," said Britt Beemer, founder of America's Research Group.

    Whether other retailers come to the same conclusion remains to be seen.

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