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Lifestyle Supermarkets: A New Way to Hangout | Drinks | Thirst Magazine
Lifestyle Supermarkets: A New Way to Hangout
Photo: Kim Choong

Lifestyle Supermarkets: A New Way to Hangout

Do you like to hang out in supermarkets?

A decade ago, supermarkets may have been just a place for grocery shopping and stocking up on household necessities. But today, grocery store brands are taking the format to another level and evolving to combine multiple lifestyle experiences.

FairPrice Finest has opened their 40th outlet in CQ @ Clarke Quay in February, occupying a 14,000sqft space that boasts food experiences and cultural showcases from local producers. Rooted in the maritime history of the area, the store has transformed a warehouse into a lifestyle destination. Not only can you do your grocery shopping, but there are also cooking workshops, a dedicated private gathering space for rent, stations with staff who cook the meat you just purchased, and a long bar where you can enjoy their locally inspired cocktails and the bottles you purchased in-store for a small fee.

This kind of lifestyle supermarket concept has been evolving over time. It requires ample space to accommodate various experiences alongside the core grocery business. With escalating real estate costs, it makes sense to offer F&B options and other experiences to help the supermarket retain shoppers and boost spending.

In 2016, Isetan at Lot 10 Kuala Lumpur introduced The Japan Store, offering 6 floors of shopping and dining experiences. The department store’s supermarket on the lowest floor was the first to introduce cooking and consuming of your purchase onsite, along with beers, sakes, and wines available from other sections of the same store. A perfect place to draw walk-ins while retaining existing shoppers who need a break from shopping.

A Space for Everyone

FairPrice Finest CQ Grocer Hall
[Image source: FairPrice Finest] A space that offers multiple F&B experiences beyond grocery shopping is becoming a popular space for hangout.

A supermarket is probably the only place where you can walk in and spend as much time as you like without being judged. Whether you're in pajamas, a suit, or even a tutu, you are a customer. It's the non-discriminatory environment that makes it so appealing for anyone to just wander in anytime: during a lunch break, before your next appointment, or just to get some distractions.

Today, you can hang out in supermarkets longer and there’s much to do. Have breakfast, lunch, or dinner if you like. Have a coffee and people watch, an ice cream with your date, taste all the samples they have to offer, have a cocktail, drink a beer, or open that bottle of wine to go with a board of charcuterie. It can literally serve as a space to work on your laptop if you want, and no one would chase you out during operating hours as long as you are spending there.

Better Choices, Not More

The bigger the supermarket, the more stuff they can display, and more brands and varieties for shoppers who love choices. If you have been to Don Don Donki and looked at their selections of treats, sweets, foods and everyday needs, then you’d be able to relate to the emotional debate about which flavours to pick or to “catch 'em all” and try everything. Though there are many choices, the decision has actually been made for the shoppers, as each supermarket’s product team would have identified which brands are likely to end up in the check out by their targeted customers.

Emphasis on a Good Beverage Programme with Food Offerings

Little Farms wine selection
[Image source: Little Farms] In-house specialist such as a sommelier can curate wine selection for targeted shoppers and pairing suggestions for a holistic shopping experience.

With better knowledge and progressive attitude towards food, the trend of drinking better is also taking shape in lifestyle spaces beyond just F&B venues.

Qra, a Malaysian lifestyle grocery shopping brand established in 2021, expanded its presence to the upscale Mont Kiara neighborhood a year later, occupying a spacious 15,000sqft area in a mixed-use commercial and residential complex. Their café section at Qra Arcoris offers a "Pick & Cook" service and Alcohall, offers specially curated cocktails, craft spirits, and wines. There are bartenders from Wholly Spirits and wine specialists from Liberty by Jiowines onsite to assist shoppers with any questions, from shaking a drink for your mood to wine pairing for that perfect dinner date, further enhancing personalised experiences for their shoppers.

The Grocer Bar at FairPrice Finest CQ works with local distillery Brass Lion and Pernod Ricard for their cocktails, while utilising technology such as a touchscreen board for product search and pairing suggestions. Their "You Pick, We Cook" Delicato counter together with five other food kiosk serve competitively priced food for dine-in and takeaway. 

Little Farms, which first opened in 2016, has recently moved its Holland Village outlet across the street to a 2-level shop lot for a more urbanised feel. With an in-house sommelier to assist, the outlet offers over 200 wines for takeaway or to drink in with meals in their restaurant upstairs without corkage through their "Shop & Sip" program.

On Sustainability

Qra refill station
[Image source: Qra] Bulk section that allows shoppers to purchase item at any amount using containers brought from home helps save packaging wastage.

Sustainability is a big topic, and drawing point for any business today. Qra Malaysia’s bulk food section is a notable effort in reducing packaging waste. You can bring your own zip lock bag, plastic bag, or containers, weigh the dry fruits and nuts, and print out the price tag yourself. Similarly, Scoop Wholefoods Singapore, which promotes a no single-use plastic policy in their stores, offers paper bags if you have no containers. Alternatively, just come back when you do have your own containers.

One thing I think FairPrice Finest CQ can improve, is to replace one-time use disposable cutleries to serve food from their cooking stations. Though they are recyclable and convenient, contributes to waste generation which Singapore is working hard to reduce.

In essence, supermarkets have evolved from mere shopping destinations into vibrant lifestyle hubs, offering a blend of dining, cultural, and shopping experiences. While these stores are focusing more on highlighting lifestyle experiences, we are seeing increasing consumer expectations for a responsible customer journey and its relationship with sustainability. With an emphasis on inclusivity, diverse product offerings, and sustainability initiatives, these establishments are catering to the evolving preferences and expectations of today's consumers. Whether you're looking for a place to unwind, explore culinary delights, or shop for everyday essentials, supermarkets now offer something for everyone, reshaping the way we perceive and interact with these everyday spaces.

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