In Full Flower

Ever since I had a kid, grocery shopping has been a huge throbbing pimple on the butt of my week. Have you ever wondered why the grocery store seems to have so many screaming children in it? Yeah, it’s because they hate shopping, and thus beleaguered moms and dads hate it too.

But as Consumer Reports writes this month in “Supermarket of the Future?,” Food Lion’s revamped, upscale chain of grocery stores, Bloom, may ease my pain a little. A spokeswoman claims the company researched shoppers’ grocery-store desires for two years. I think maybe the researchers actually paid attention, because they came up with a number of things that piqued my interest, including in-store kiosks that offer wine pairings and recipes, and bar-code guns that allow you to tot up and pack purchases as you’re shopping, rather than waiting in line for a cashier and bagger at the end of your trip.

But the details that really got me hot and bothered were the least gee-whiz of the bunch: Bloom saves parking spots near the entrance for families with small kids, and organizes groceries so that you don’t have to crisscross the whole place just to pick up a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk. Yeah, yeah, I know, grocery stores are designed to make you do just that: trot all over the store to get your staples just in case you lay eyes on some cockamamie treat sold at a much higher margin than your carton of eggs. I never used to mind zipping all over the store, but when you’re dragging a protesting child by the hand, any wasted motion is unwarranted. Bloom keeps the milk near the checkout. That’s all I need to be happy.

Not everyone is pleased by the Bloom makeover: One blogger said the stores retain their “harsh industrial fluorescent lighting” and a staff consisting of “minimum wage high school kids”; another compared it unfavorably to Wegmans, a grocery chain with something of a cult following. But let them have their Wegmans. Saved parking spots. Now that is a phrase to really warm this mom’s heart. Too bad there’s no Blooms on the West Coast.

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