Looking for Love in the Produce Section

It makes sense.

If you want to meet people, you need to go where there are people.

And if there’s one place that is able to draw a fairly regular crowd, it’s got to be a grocery store. After all, people need to eat. And whether they are buying the ingredients to make their own meals at home, buying a prepared meal to take home with them, or eating at the in-store restaurant, groceries have all the bases covered.

So it was not a surprise to me when the Wall Street Journal published a story, “The Hottest Social Scene in Town Isn’t the Singles’ Bar. It’s the Supermarket.” in today’s paper. The story notes that many grocery stores have become a meeting ground of sorts for people who live in the local community, people who are just looking to meet old friends, start new friendships, or even possibly a romance.

Many grocery stores have embraced this, and actively encouraged such social activities. Supermarkets are finding a new identity as a social hub in communities. Parents now bring their children here to play, retirees gather for Bingo, and singles find romance.

Market of Choice, an Oregon chain of 11 supermarkets, has reduced space for center-store aisles by 22% in recent years and devoted more room to couches, fireplaces with seating areas and restaurant-like services.

Lowes Foods, a Winston-Salem, N.C.-based supermarket chain, has recently redesigned its stores into an animated “village concept” of shops around the perimeter with giant birthday-candle lights, moving signs and employees who perform a chicken dance. At the heart of each store is a large rectangular communal table that can seat 10 to 15 people.

Lucky’s Markets of Boulder, CO, says about 25% of its stores are devoted to nonretail space, whether that’s tables in a cafe, performance areas for local musicians, or a designated community room where neighborhood groups meet.

It’s great to see stores using their space in creative ways to encourage people to socialize.

I’ve talked about it before, how loneliness is our nation’s biggest health problem. So if a business can do something to alleviate that loneliness, then more power to them. I know I would support such a store with my dollars, and I think so would many others. And I would also think that the people who are frequenting such stores for social reasons would likely spend more at the store than they may have done otherwise.

It seems like a win-win for everyone.

And it seems in direct contrast to the poor decision that an Ikea store in China made regarding the gathering elderly people in its cafeteria.

Ikea felt that the elderly were hurting its sales, and put in rules to restrict such socialization.

I didn’t get Ikea’s decision then, and after reading this story about grocery stores actively encouraging such socialization, it makes even less sense now.

So perhaps Ikea can learn a thing or two from a grocery store.

Who knows, before long, we may see couples dancing in the aisles of their local Ikea store.


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