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Lookin' for a cheap date? Try Wal-Mart

The food, makeup, underwear is at "Everyday low prices" but a Wal-Mart "date" could be for free.
April 8, 2005: 3:15 PM EDT
By Parija Bhatnagar, CNN/Money staff writer

Wal-Mart's taking on the role of retail matchmaker to some of its customers.

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Just when you thought you'd heard it all from the king of discount shopping, Wal-Mart is now pitching itself as the new dating hot spot -- with everyday low prices to boot.

In fact, the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer's been playing Cupid to hundreds of lonely single German shoppers for well over a year now.

According to Amy Wyatt, spokeswoman for the retailer's international operations, Wal-Mart's been running its "Singles Shopping" campaign in all of its 91 stores in Germany.

Here's how its works.

On Friday nights, singles looking for romance, mindless flirting or just a new friend head over to their neighborhood Wal-Mart where they're given a big bright red bow to attach to their shopping cart or shopping basket.

Then it's up to the willing participants to approach one another and take it from there.

But if that's too intimidating, Wal-Mart has set up "flirting points" around the stores stacked with "romantic" merchandise, such as chocolates, wine and cheese, to help with that first awkward step.

Said Wyatt, "The singles night runs for two hours in the evening, from 6 to 8 p.m. every week. Our managers there told us that its been hugely successful and has actually boosted store traffic and sales in a lot of markets in Germany. In some stores we're getting 300 to 400 people taking part every week."

Wal-Mart (Research) feels so good about the idea that the retailer trademarked the "Singles Shopping" slogan in Germany and is also testing it in its stores in Puerto Rico, South Korea and Britain.

Someday, it could even pop up in a few of its U.S. stores. Wyatt said she's been working on her counterparts responsible for Wal-Mart's U.S. operations to actively give it a try, though no firm timetable has been set.

The singles campaign was the brainchild of a few of Wal-Mart's German associates who came up with the concept one day when they overhead a female customer talking about how difficult if was for her to meet interesting single men on a Friday night.

"This was a middle-aged woman who felt she was maybe too old to go to nightclubs,"Wyatt said. "That's pretty much been the theme here where most of the singles are middle-aged to older customers."

"Singles Shopping" isn't the only match-making idea Wal-Mart's trying out. Wyatt said some of the German stores also feature singles bulletin boards with pictures of single men and women who frequently shop at Wal-Mart.

"If you're interested, up can post a picture of yourself with a few details," Wyatt said. "The store gives you your own box kept at the store. If someone is interested, they'll fill out a card with their information and drop it in the box."

How successful has the campaign been?

"We've heard that one couple that met on singles night is now married," Wyatt said.

"Another cute story," she continued, "is of a 74-year-old woman who posted her picture. A 74-year-old man saw it but was nervous to drop his card in her box. So the Wal-Mart associates first got him spruced up at the hairdressers at the Wal-Mart store, took a picture, and posted it on the board. I think the two of them are now seeing each other."

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