business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal over the weekend about how some supermarkets are becoming a social hub and even a great place to find a date.

An excerpt:

“Supermarkets—those havens of the not-so-scintillating chore of scouring numbered aisles, pushing carts and perusing produce—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.

“Grocery stores are fulfilling the new role as traditional gathering spots, from shopping malls to social clubs like Lions Clubs and Rotary International, continue to shrink from decades-earlier peaks. Malls, in particular, are in danger of extinction. Credit Suisse has projected that up to 25% of malls will close over the next five years, as the internet continues to reshape the way Americans shop.

“As more shoppers consider alternatives including online shopping apps and meal kits, grocers are finding ways to avoid a similar fate. Many are reinventing themselves as destination spots.”

Among the companies cited in the story as having deliberately worked to turn their stores into gathering places and hotbeds of romance are Mariano’s, Market of Choice, Lucky’s Markets, and Lowes Foods.
KC's View:
This is a sweet story, replete with romantic entanglements developed in the produce department.

Though I have to admit that when I think about romance in the produce department, my mind immediately goes to Animal House, as Otter engages in cucumber-related repartee with Mrs. Wormer. Classic.

The thing is, with apologies to my friends at the Journal, this isn’t new. The immediate circumstances driving the trend may be new, but these kinds of initiatives have been going on for years … certainly as long as I’ve been writing about retail, and probably longer.

The question is whether the trend is sustainable. I think, in fact, that this is the kind of thing traditional retailers have to do in order to compete with online shopping. But it will require a sustained effort, continued investment, and perhaps a rethinking of what is mostly a transactional mindset, with a greater focus on lifetime customer value.