A MASS SHOPPING SPREE ON $20

Byline: Wendy Hessen

NEW YORK--Value is supposed to be one of the cornerstones of mass market retailing, but how far can $20 really go in the typical mass merchant's accessories department?
It can cover at least the basics for those consumers willing to search out the bargains, as recent visits to five area mass merchants revealed. By shopping for sale items, the consumer looking to accessorize a business suit, for instance, can expect to get at least one major piece--a handbag or belt--plus a smaller item such as a pair of earrings or a scarf for $20 or less.
Those in the market for a career-appropriate, $20-or-under watch can also find respectable merchandise, particularly by talking to the salespeople behind the counters and inquiring about specials.
Here, a look at what each store had to offer.

WAL-MART
The Bricktown, N.J., store was relatively busy, especially considering it was 9:30 on a weekday evening. Six days a week, the store is open until 11 p.m., much later than any stores in the surrounding area. The late-night shoppers were focused on sale items as well as new fall merchandise.
The accessories area is located in the center of the store, off a main aisle. Handbags occupied most of the space, offering both casual looks and trendier pieces appropriate for business attire, such as an unbranded private label sling bag in black, leather-like vinyl for $12.96. A polyester, semisheer oblong scarf in a black and ivory pattern by Gitano for $4.96 provided a coordinating item.
The watch department adjacent to accessories was staffed by one young woman, floating between several customers at once. She indicated that the selection for under $20 was limited, pointed to a few styles in the cases and returned to other customers. Most of the selection carried prices from $16.96--on items that were too casual or sporty for the office--to about $39 for brands including Gitano Studio, Lorus, Bonjour, L.A. Express and Timex.
A nearby table was stacked with sale watches, among them a watch by Eternity, with a silver-tone face and black strap, that could be worn with the handbag and scarf, for $9.96.

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