Can Stores Close Early

You’re grocery shopping and about to grab your carton of eggs when an announcement comes over the intercom; “Attention all customers, due to unforeseen circumstances, we will be closing early this evening! Please bring your purchases to the front registers at this time! Thank you!” What?! You’re not done with your shopping yet! What’s going on? Can stores close early?

Yes, retail stores can close early for any number of reasons. These reasons may include inclement weather, a threat to the store, staffing issues, and more. Retail stores typically close early at the discretion of management and re-open at the discretion of management or corporate.

Keep reading to learn more about why stores close early, what to do if the store you’re shopping at closes early, and how to prepare for a potential store closure.

Why Do Stores Close Early?

Stores can close early for any number of reasons. The majority of the time, a store will close if there is an imminent risk to the safety or security of staff and shoppers that could not be avoided if the store remained open. Other times, less dangerous situations may require an early closure. 

Examples of such risks and other unique situations include 

  • Inclement weather (like an incoming hurricane which could damage the store and result in injury)
  • A threat of violence or damage to the store (such as a bomb threat or a possibility of looting)
  • Staffing issues that make it impossible to keep the store open (e.g., no one showed up for their shift, and the store can not operate as it should)
  • Holiday hours (such as closing early the day before Thanksgiving)
  • Giving workers enough time to re-stock overnight (for example, closing early to allow enough time for restocking as two instead of one truck of wares showed up)
  • A disaster or threat to public safety that has occurred on store property (such as a chemical spill or gas leak) 

Who Decides When To Close?

Typically, store management will make the judgment call as to whether or not to close the store early, often after confirming their decision with Corporate. Staff and lower-level management (such as department managers) typically need the authority or the ability to decide whether or not to close early. 

This managerial decision will be conveyed to staff via intercom to the shopping public. Likewise, the decision to re-open the store is generally made by management or by corporate. The situation is assessed, and the call is made to re-open during regular or restricted hours in light of the situation and the safety of re-opening. 

Can You Keep Shopping?

So if you’re in the store and the announcement of an early closure is made, can you keep shopping? You should not, and continuing to browse the isles or select items could put you, other shoppers, or the store staff at risk. Store closures only occur in truly drastic or important scenarios, and it’s best to heed the request to cut your shopping short and head up front. 

Failure to comply with the request could result in arguments with staff or managers, an unsafe situation for everyone, the police being called, or even being banned from shopping at that location. A better solution would be to plan and adjust your shopping habits to ensure you can still get everything you need. 

Buy Your Essentials First

A great way to prepare for any possible early closure is to keep your essentials at the top of your list. The stuff you need to buy and can’t afford to live without. If your list includes Doritos, string cheese, bread, and milk, put the bread and milk at the top of your list. Grab those items first, then wind back around for less essential items.

Be sure you know where your must-have products are located in the store and plan to hit those sections first. This will keep your shopping efficient and purposeful. This also ensures that should you be surprised by an early closure, your basic need-to-have items are already in your cart, and proceeding immediately to checkout will be less painful. You may not have your ice cream bars, but you have potatoes and medicine. 

Know Your Store’s Hours

Another great way to keep from being surprised by an early closure is to be aware of when your store opens and closes, especially before or during the holiday season. Most stores have their holiday hours posted online, and other stores make it easy to verify hours with a simple phone call. Just call the location and ask for their holiday hours. 

This will leave you better prepared to shop early and ensure that you have enough time during your shopping trip to buy everything you need and get home safely. 

Stay Informed of Local News

This is another great way to prepare for a possible early store closing. For example, protests or riots in your city can cause stores to close down early to protect staff and shoppers and prevent looting. 

If reports come out of possible rioting near you, don’t go out; stay home. If reports of protests being possible within the next few days emerge, get your shopping done before things get violent or unsafe. While most protests are peaceful and organized, it is easy for a protest to become violent and pose a threat to your safety. 

Keep informed as to weather trends, too. If the local forecast calls for extreme weather, be aware that this may force your favorite locations to close early, and plan to do your shopping before the dangerous weather rolls in. This will help you stay stocked up in an emergency and ensure you’re not traveling to and from the store in bad weather. 

Can You Put Certain Items Aside?

A frequently asked question from shoppers of staff in an early closure situation is, “could you put this aside for me?” For example, you may ask staff to put aside diapers or perishable food you don’t have the time to buy so that you can pick these things up later when the store is open.

Your ability to do so depends upon the store, the store’s policies, and whether or not management is willing to accommodate your request. In some extreme situations, managers may honor a request for an item to be stored off the shelf for you to pick up later or in a special refrigerated area off the sales floor. 

If this request is granted, leave your name and phone number with the store and the time that you will be back to pick up the item, and make sure that this information is written down and secured to the item or items you have reserved for you. Please pick up your item on time to ensure the item is returned to the shelf.


Stores can close early for several reasons, including the threat of violence, a chemical spill or gas leak on store property, inclement weather, or holiday hours. If the store you are shopping in closes early, don’t try to stay and shop longer. Instead, head up to the cash registers and purchase your items. 

Store management will typically make the call to close early, and those same managers may, in special circumstances, allow you to put items on hold for you to pick up later when the store is open. A good way to avoid unpleasant early closure surprises at the store is to get your essential items first during any shopping trip so that you can a least leave with the basics.

Be aware of local news events (like protests) and weather to gauge when or if to shop. Unrest or dangerous weather can often prompt early closures, so plan and get your shopping done early. 

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