“I bought my prom dress from this place,” said a woman in her late twenties as she prowled the aisles in search of bargains and her vanished youth at the Tuesday opening of legendary retailer Century 21, in the Financial District.
Wistful and acquisitive instincts commingled in shoppers who seemed less intent on grabbing the most fashionable clothes than on simply grabbing the most clothes. The line for the second-floor women’s dressing room snaked halfway back to the escalator, each customer carrying more than the next, while employees in slick uniforms ushered the queue around the racks, so as not to disturb shoppers still pondering their options.
The crowd skewed older, as mostly middle-aged professionals from surrounding office buildings (with the occasional recalcitrant child in tow) were asked to consider why they were there. A woman in her thirties reflected, “I used to come pre-pandemic. When I first started working, I broke my heel, and I hopped here to replace it. It’s almost nostalgic coming back. Honestly, it’s more convenient than anything.”
With the everything-old-is-new-again ambiance permeated by the unctuously aggressive whiff of discount perfume that will forever offer department stores a Pavlovian competitive edge over e-commerce sites, one luggage-shopping woman mused, “You can come and find out what there is. There’s always something. It’s fun, you know?”