Neiman’s Christmas Fantasies

Neiman Marcus Group unveiled its 2005 Christmas catalogue on Tuesday, reveling in dream gifts for the holiday season.

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DALLAS — As the mercury flirted with 90 degrees here and consumers worried about rising gas prices, Neiman Marcus Group unveiled its 2005 Christmas catalogue on Tuesday, reveling in dream gifts for the holiday season.

For that special person who has absolutely everything, how about a flying car costing a mere $3.5 million that looks like something out of “The Jetsons,” or a private concert for 500 people starring Sir Elton John with a $1.5 million price tag?

If those are just a tad expensive, the luxury retailer is offering some items for less than seven figures, including an adult treehouse starting at $50,000, a race-car simulator for $65,000 in which the driver sits in a life-size replica of the car that won the Indianapolis 500 this year, and a backyard railroad that starts at $200,000.

“Please, don’t let the weather fool you,” said Brendan Hoffman, president and chief executive officer of NM Direct. “Christmas is coming.”

Published since 1926, the Christmas Book has become NM Direct’s highest-volume catalogue and single largest mailing, though executives decline to reveal its sales figure. At 152 glossy pages, the 2005 edition touts more than 700 gifts.

Neiman’s officials are less interested in selling the fantasy gifts than in receiving attention. Among last year’s offerings, Neiman’s did sell a $20,000 custom suit of armor, $8,000 jeweled versions of Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head and a $25,000 package for a backstage look at the Grand Ole Opry.

This year’s eye-popper is the prototype of a machine known as the M400 Skycar, “a chance to own a piece of aviation history that has been in development since the Sixties,” said Ginger Reeder, vice president of public relations at Neiman Marcus Group and chief wrangler of fantasy gifts for NM Direct.

Taking off and landing like a helicopter, the mini plane seats four, can reach speeds as high as 350 mph and may also be driven like a car, said the creator, Paul S. Moller of Moller International in Davis, Calif. He said delivery of production vehicles could be as soon as 2008 or 2009.

The Elton John concert is a charitable purchase. The $1.5 million fee will go to the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which suggested the idea to Neiman’s. The buyer also gets a Yamaha red player piano stocked with five Elton songs and custom-made for the singer to play at the party.

This story first appeared in the September 28, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“Elton doesn’t mind if it’s for your son’s bar mitzvah or a gift for your wife,” said Jason Wiesenfeld, spokesman for the foundation.

Neiman’s has toyed with abandoning the His & Hers gift, a tradition started by former company chairman Stanley Marcus in 1960, but not this year: The 2005 His & Hers is a Photo-Me Classic Booth for $20,000 that produces the familiar strip of four wallet-size pictures.

Another tradition is to offer a special-edition car — last year’s $125,000 limited-edition Maseratis sold out in four minutes. This year’s model is a 2007 hybrid Lexus luxury performance sedan for $65,000. Seventy-five are available.

The catalogue has two pages of fantasy gift jewelry, including a $1.2 million collection of eight rare pieces, such as an 1880s sculpted gunmetal cuff by Lucien Falize and a 1945 butterfly brooch by Van Cleef & Arpels.

Neiman’s typically ties in the catalogue with a charity, and this year a portion of sales from five pages in the book and cover-art items will be donated to The Prostate Cancer Foundation.

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