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Where does this {$CATEGORIES} get defined?

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In /classes/gui.class.php, private function _displayNavigation().

This function first tests whether the HTML has already been built and cached.

If not, the function builds a category tree and populates the template box.navigation.php. The resulting HTML gets cached. This HTML content is specific to the skin being used.

Eventually, the chunk of HTML is given to the Smarty template variable CATEGORIES.

So, to change the appearance of the Navigation box, that is done in the template. It will be helpful to set CubeCart's cache setting to disabled while fiddling with the skin code. The function helps to build the complete array of items for the Navigation box. (The getCategoryTree() and _makeTree() builds the hierarchy of the categories.)

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