Cape shoppers ready to board Old Navy

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Cape Girardeau's newest retail ship has finally come in.

Tonight, following a private late afternoon christening, Old Navy will welcome aboard its first shoppers in Cape Girardeau's Westfield Shoppingtown West Park at 6 p.m. The grand opening will follow this weekend.

The opening is the culmination of almost six months of public anticipation and private planning and remodeling of part of Westfield's eastern J.C. Penney wing. In February it was announced that the popular nationwide clothing retailer would occupy 11,600 square feet of the mall that formerly housed Garfield's restaurant and Holiday Happenings. That is now about to become reality.

"Obviously we're very excited for the Shoppingtown," said Joyce Hunter, senior marketing director for Westfield Shoppingtown. "But we're also excited for Cape Girardeau."

Hunter said that the mall's concierge center keeps track of customer requests for stores. She said that Old Navy's arrival fulfills one of the most popular public demands.

"It's bigger than us," Hunter continued. "It's about what the people in the community want."

Although the coming of the San Francisco-based retail giant is meeting a longtime public desire, it may also provide a boost to a mall that has recently sustained some key losses. Earlier this winter, longtime mall staple Maurices closed leaving significant vacant floor space. This is in addition to one of the mall's anchor store locations, which has been vacant since ShopKo closed in 2001. Lack of foot traffic in the southern wing of the mall was cited by owner Bob Basler as a main reason that his Mr. Bulky Treats shop closed down last month after 12 years in the mall.

Charged with attempting to stem that tide, Old Navy brings with it a proven track record of success. Starting in 1994 as a new division of Gap Inc., Old Navy has grown to be more than 850 stores strong throughout the United States and Canada. It was also the first retailer in the country to reach $1 billion in annual sales after only four years of existence.

The store will welcome its first customers today at 6 p.m. until the Shoppingtown closes at 9:30 p.m. It will then be open regular mall hours, including on Friday and Saturday, when the store will hold its official grand opening. Festivities including fashion shows and a trivia contest.

trehagen@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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