Neiman Marcus Eyes Fatter Database for Holidays

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Neiman Marcus this year has added an online sweepstakes to its marketing mix for the Christmas Book, the luxury retailer's holiday catalog now in its 77th season.


Recipients of the catalog and of an e-mail touting the 147-page book's 503 items are asked to go online and register for a chance to win a pair of new Hummer 24-speed mountain bikes. The effort aims to build Neiman's online database in time for holiday marketing.


"One of our objectives this year is to capture as many new e-mail addresses from this increased level of traffic as possible," said Michael Crotty, vice president of marketing at Neiman Marcus Direct, Irving, TX.


The promotion certainly has the support of numbers.


The Christmas Book dropped Sept. 30 to nearly 2 million homes nationwide. An e-mail went that same day to the company's house file, which, when last publicly disclosed to this publication in October 2002, stood at more than 750,000 addresses. The company neither rents outside lists, nor shops it to others.


Concurrent with those marketing tactics was a press event Neiman Marcus has held yearly since 1960 in Dallas. Representatives of the national media were invited Sept. 30 to view the fantasy gifts featured in the current Christmas Book.


Both the e-mail and a whole page in the Christmas Book urge readers to visit the site at www.neimanmarcus.com/bikes. The promotion also appears on the home page and in online ads running on sites that are part of Neiman's media plan.


Those who sign up before Nov. 24 to receive free e-mail updates, trends and online-only offers automatically are entered into Neiman's holiday sweepstakes.


Entrants supply their name, e-mail address, ZIP code and telephone number. A random drawing determines the winner, who gets a pair of Hummer bikes valued at $795 each. Delivery is scheduled by Christmas.


The bike is listed for sale in the Christmas Book's print and online versions.


"We're excited about this promotion," Crotty said, "because the Hummer mountain bikes are such a fun and unexpected incentive.


"The timing of this is also key," he said. "We'll capture all of these new e-mail addresses in October and then have them on our database in time for the holiday push in November and December."


Like last year, the Christmas Book went live online the day it was mailed. And, in keeping with tradition, a Flash e-mail touted the gifts featured in the 2003 edition. That missive showcases a sampling of this year's gifts.


"The key message is there is something for everyone in the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book," Crotty said.


Still, the book reaches an upscale audience. The least-expensive item this year is a silver-plated calendar paperweight for $15. The most expensive is the Bombardier Learjet, with models ranging from $7.7 million to $12.7 million.


The plane is one of 11 fantasy gifts recommended for this holiday season. Others include a $27,000 luxury ice fishing house, $75,170 BMW 645Ci coupe, $10,000 mermaid suit, $50,000 Mariposa shadow garden, $50,000 Louis Vuitton luggage set and $24,855 Swarovski crystal Blossom chandelier.


Apparel, confectionery, jewelry, accessories, glassware and electronics comprise the middle ground.


"A lot of people don't realize how many wonderful gifts we have for under $100," Crotty said.


The Christmas Book was first published in 1926 as a 16-page catalog. It was a Christmas card to the retailer's best customers. The book evolved with time, and its offerings grew more unique. The same is true of the cover art. This year's artist was Sara Fanelli, an illustrator and author of children's books.


Under Crotty, who also oversees marketing for Neiman's Horchow and Chef's catalogs, the Christmas Book has gained a firm presence online. NeimanMarcus.com is now an important channel for orders. So is the Christmas Book e-mail, though Crotty will not disclose numbers.


"The response rate to this e-mail each year is extremely high," he said. "The open rate, the click-through rate and conversion rate are nearly double what we see on average. Therefore, we spend a lot of time making sure it is special and delivers on our promise."


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