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Neiman’s Offers Fantasy Christmas Gifts

Luxury retailer maintains tradition amid global economic crisis.

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IRVING, Tex. — Tradition matters at Neiman Marcus, so the luxury retailer had no qualms about unveiling the extravagant gifts in the 82nd edition of its Christmas Book on Tuesday, despite the crisis roiling global financial markets.

This story first appeared in the October 8, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The fantasy gifts, like the $500,000 roll of synthetic turf cut from the Dallas Cowboys’ end zone at Texas Stadium, are meant to make people smile, said Ginger Reeder, vice president of corporate communications. “We’ve done the catalogue through World Wars and the Depression and through tough times,” Reeder said. “9/11 is the only time we canceled the [Christmas Book] launch party, which was scheduled for 9/13. Then the ‘Today’ show asked us to come on with the gifts to show that there are traditions that go on year after year. If we didn’t do it, people would ask for it.”

Reeder presided over the media event at Texas Stadium, which is closing at the end of the football season, because Brendan Hoffman, who was NM Direct president and chief executive officer, resigned Sept. 26 to become president and ceo of Lord & Taylor. However, it was too late to replace Hoffman’s greeting and signature on the inside cover of the 156-page catalogue.

Reeder declined to discuss the company’s holiday outlook, but Neiman Marcus Group chief executive officer Burt Tansky said in September that the last months of the year, including holiday, would be tough.

“We just have to do what we do best and keep focused on that and you can’t go wrong,” said Reeder, noting that is Tansky’s mantra.

Evidence of that is the book’s merchandise, which is exclusively high end this year. Gone are the pages featuring items for less than $100, which have been shifted into a gift catalogue that will be packaged with the second mailing of the Christmas Book early next month, Reeder said. The company has published similar gift books, though not every year, she said. The groupings of inexpensive items such as salt and pepper sets were dropped from the Christmas Book this year because they didn’t match well with the rest of the catalogue, which features a Who’s Who of luxury brands and goods, such as Cartier watches, David Yurman and Gucci jewelry, Jimmy Choo handbags and clothing by Juicy Couture, Michael Kors and Prada. One of the lowest-priced items in this year’s book, a $25 shaker of edible 23-karat gold powder, still screams luxury.

Neiman’s executives were confident they will sell all 31 of the 2009 BMW 7 Series sedans that are bundled with a five-day trip to Germany and France for $160,000 each. They also expect interest in his and hers life-size Lego statues by Nathan Sawaya at $60,000 apiece.

The 535 square feet of Cowboys turf is tax deductible because the $500,000 purchase price will be donated to the Salvation Army, said Charlotte Jones Anderson, vice president of the Dallas Cowboys Football Club.

Neiman’s typically features a knockout piece of bling, but this year the fantasy jewelry is museum quality — a rare 10th-century braided gold Viking ring, $25,000; a 15th-century gold signet ring, $35,000, and a 16th-century tourmaline and gold ladies’ ring, $45,000.

For sports fans, there is the $10 million racing stable of 12 to 15 thoroughbreds that will be put together by Three Chimneys Farm for a four-year period; a backyard golf course by Jack Nicklaus, starting at $1 million, and the opportunity to play a game with the Harlem Globetrotters for $110,000.

Other over-the-top options: a $100,000 changeable structure by architectural artist Michael Jantzen that might serve as a meditation room or party place; a $110,000 140-horsepower motorcycle that looks like it came from the set of a Batman movie; a $250,000 custom Guinness pub installed in your home; a $1.3 million wedding at the Resort at Pelican Hills in Newport Beach, Calif., and a collection of 18,400 45 rpm records amassed over 35 years, $275,000.

“These gifts are nothing more than an opportunity to make you smile and think, ‘Oh my gosh, who would buy this?’” Reeder said.

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