Shopping For a Soul Mate? Stores Host Dating Events This Valentine’s Season

The dollar store probably isn't the first place you think of for finding a date. But no matter if you’re a geek, cheapskate or fashionista, stores around the country are hoping to help play matchmaker for you this Valentine's Day.

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The supposed appeal of dating events is that they offer opportunities to meet people without having to approach a stranger in the supermarket and make flirty small talk over a display of peanut butter. This Valentine’s Day season, however, a handful of retailers around the country are challenging this conventional wisdom by hosting meet-and-greet or speed dating events amidst the racks, stacks, and shelves.

It might seem like a peculiar trend, but insight into a potential mate’s taste in clothes, books, or computers is arguably just as important as learning where they work, where they’re from, and what they like to drink. And besides, if you don’t meet anyone who makes your heart race, you can engage in a little retail therapy afterwards — which is probably what these stores have in mind in the first place.

So whether you’re a geek, cheapskate, or fashionista, stores are hoping to help play matchmaker for you. Gap Inc’s Banana Republic stores, for example, joined forces with Match.com and blogger Joy Cho to hold dating events in its stores in eight major cities including San Francisco, New York, and Chicago. If sparks fly, you’re in a convenient place to pick up some new threads for your next date. Just please — no matching outfits!

Head Games Salon in Portland, Me., aims to connect couples together at its first-ever speed dating event. Singles looking for a date with a good head of hair on their shoulders can try their luck this Valentine’s Day. And if the match doesn’t work out, as the song says, you can always “Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair.”

(MORE: Why Consumers Just Don’t Feel the Love for Valentine’s Day)

For tech types, the question of Mac versus PC can be a dealbreaker. Tekserve, a New York City computer store that specializes in Apple products, takes at least that one potential area of incompatibility off the table. Targeting a demographic that might be more comfortable expressing their hopes and emotions from behind a screen, the store held an event the weekend before Valentine’s Day that combined advice from relationship experts about putting together an online dating profile and avoiding online dating mistakes with the opportunity to mingle offline with like-minded singles.

Tired of people calling you a cheap date? Find your penny-pinching partner at the dollar store. The chain 99 Cents Only is hosting a speed dating event on February 14 at its Sunset Boulevard store in Los Angeles. Hollywood may be known for the millionaire celebrity lifestyle, but we predict lots of romantic, candlelit dates that end with someone pulling out a Groupon. (Cheapskates not in Southern California don’t have to feel left out; the chain might be hosting Valentine’s speed dating at additional stores next year.)

Although The Strand independent bookstore has been an icon in New York City’s East Village for more than 80 years with its tagline “18 Miles of Books,” this is only the second year it hosted a pair of dating events the week before Valentine’s Day. One was just for women, or “queer ladies,” as its website says, while an event the following night catered to straight bookworms looking to write a happy ending to their own love story. (If you’re both a book lover and frugal, you can find dating events hosted by a scattering of local libraries around the country.)

(MORE: Valentine’s Day Deals: Love in the Form of Heart-Shaped Meat, Fast Food by Candlelight)

For single shopaholics, malls in California, the United Kingdom and even Malaysia are getting into the act with Valentine’s speed dating events. As an expression of true love, maybe successful daters can add into their wedding vows a promise to schlep their beloved’s shopping bags from store to store. How romantic!

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