BEIJING, China (Reuters Life!) - For Chinese singles in the market for love this Valentine's day, a Beijing supermarket may offer just what they're looking for.
The "I'm Looking For You" market opened in November 2009, for the China's unofficial "Singles Day" which is marked on the 11th of that month.
Since then, the supermarket has attracted more than 1,000 clients and successfully matched more than 50 couples.
The supermarket -- essentially a dating service that offers a venue where singles can meet -- only charges a 20 yuan ($3) registration fee.
Members list their names, ages, income and occupation, along with a picture, and this profile is available for others to view. They are also asked what they would like in a partner.
Gao Shan, the supermarket's manager, said the concept was inspired by people's need to meet in a safe, friendly and relaxing environment, and by the negative experiences some singles have had using Internet dating services.
"The love supermarket was not created to satisfy a holiday need," she said. "It was created so that singles can have the opportunity to leave behind their single life."
Many single Chinese complain that hectic work and school schedules in the highly competitive society leave them with little time to socialize, Gao said.
Clients such as Qu Hui, a 25-year-old teacher, said the supermarket had given her hope to find Mr. Right, as well as some much-needed friends.
"I wish I could find my better half, that is my greatest hope. But if that doesn't happen, I hope I can use this place to meet more friends. After all, I am a teacher, so the people that I can meet and socialize with are very limited," she said.
Some clients such as government employee Wang Jiaohong were encouraged to sign up to the so-called love supermarket by mothers eager for their children to marry.
"My ideal woman would be someone who I can get along with, who is kind-hearted, and who is responsible. My mother says that the reason why I haven't found her yet is because I'm too picky," said 35-year-old Wang.
"But in reality, I believe it's because I just haven't yet found my match. There are however some outstanding women here."
Chinese women living in the cities may not have enough time to look for partners, but men have more to worry about.
More than 24 million Chinese men of marrying age could find themselves without spouses in 2020, state media has reported, citing a study that blamed sex-selective abortions as a major factor.
The study, conducted by the government-backed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, named the gender imbalance among newborns as the most serious demographic problem faced by the country's 1.3 billion population.
A traditional preference for boys, exacerbated by China's one-child policy, means many expectant parents are willing to pay for illegal ultrasound checks to determine the sex of their baby, and abort a female fetus.
Editing by Miral Fahmy