Buying Time

Fall '99's New Shops

Thoughts of impending disaster are far from the minds of shoppers at the new Old Navy, directly across the street from Macy's on 34th Street and no doubt eating into the profits of that gray lady. (So successful is Old Navy, it is even cannibalizing the profits of its own parent, the Gap.) Though there's no vintage merchandise for sale, the mannequins have a funky '50s feeling and the store's old-timey slogan, "Shopping Is Fun Again," is plastered on the walls in mile-high letters. DKNY may wish to turn you into a giddy coed and Ralph Lauren convince you to gussy up like a country squire, but Old Navy does them both one better— it takes the fantasy of American democracy, equality, and fraternal bliss and makes it real, with prices even a McDonald's salary can handle. The genius of this place is, cheap as it may be, it never makes you feel shabby and broke the way 14th Street or Kmart or Dress Barn can. With its tongue-in-cheek ad campaign, booming music, strange kinetic sculpture (five sets of grinding legs encased in jeans), and shifting mix of merchandise— some merely serviceable (cotton crew necks for $10.50), some peppy (gaily printed flannel pj bottoms for $16.50), some irresistible (tiny Ts decorated with a trio of glittering pumpkins for $12.50)— is it any wonder virtually no one leaves shopping-bag-less?

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