Byline: Holly Haber

CARROLLTON, Tex. — Neiman Marcus’s holiday train gambit last year must have worked. This year’s store on rails is not only bigger, it’s making more stops and each visit is longer.
The retailer remains mum about sales from its Holiday Express, an elegant restored passenger train dating from the Forties and Fifties that’s stocked with gifts — from food to furs. Last year, about 10,000 people climbed on board as it visited six cities in the South and Midwest over nine days.
The 1995 plan calls for 10 stops in 27 days, with an average of 2.5 shopping days in each city. Having started Nov. 19 in San Antonio, Tex., the tour winds up Dec. 16 in Indianapolis, following stops in New Orleans; Jackson, Miss.; Memphis and Nashville, Tenn.; Louisville, Ky.; Cincinnati; Pittsburgh, and Cleveland.
Three of those cities are on the itinerary because they were top producers last year: San Antonio, New Orleans and Memphis.
“We go to cities where we have a base of customers, but no store,” explained Billy Payton, vice president of marketing and customer programs.
Bestsellers last year included men’s sweaters, shirts and gloves, women’s leather accessories, handbags and teddy bears. Precious jewelry and furs generated the most dollars.
This year, Neiman’s lengthened the train with a fifth car for merchandise display and a baggage car to tote inventory. A team of 50 sales and support personnel staff the train.
A visit to the train as it was loaded here found it stuffed with merchandise. Pathways through the cars are so narrow that visitors must be scheduled at 30-minute intervals.
There are sweaters, cashmere scarves, robes, fragrances, tree ornaments, pottery, toys, ties and jewels — including a $900,000 diamond necklace. In fact, furs and jewels occupy an entire car.
Plush teddy bears and Neiman’s Epicure and Red River food products, like macadamia nut popcorn and salsas, abound. Mingling in the mix are quirky items like gourmet dog biscuits and portable car repair kits.
Six resources helped sponsor the tour and claim dedicated displays for their goods. They include Guerlain fragrances, St. John accessories and fragrances, David Yurman jewelry, Mont Blanc pens, Bobby Jones men’s sportswear and North American Watch Co. timepieces by Concorde, Movado and Piaget.
Other products that rate a nice chunk of shelf space include Michael Simon sweaters, Prada handbags and Ermenegildo Zegna ties.
A few items were made just for the tour, including a Judith Leiber crystal minaudiAre depicting a train for $4,800 and a $12,500 sheared beaver coat by Zuki, a Canadian manufacturer, inset with symbols representing the 10 cities.
A percentage of all sales will be donated to American Express’s Charge Against Hunger campaign.

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