Neiman Marcus Offers Gifts and Fantasy in Christmas Catalogs

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Got $20 million burning a hole in your pocket? If so, you can buy a made-to-order submarine from Neiman Marcus.


That's just one of the fantasy items the cataloger touts in this year's Neiman Marcus Christmas Books, which also include other goodies such as flirting robots for $12,000 and a house made of ice starting at $225,000.


The high-end retailer replaced its traditional oversized Christmas Book with three smaller 100-page books. Titled "The Christmas Books Oh Cool 2000," the catalogs have red, white and silver covers and segment merchandise by categories. Each book contains a few fantasy gifts, such as the submarine, and more affordable items such as an $18 silver-plated wine stopper.


Three million shoppers were selected from the company's inhouse customer database to receive the books. Those who were not included in the drop can go online at www.neimanmarcus.com to view the catalogs and purchase the trilogy for $10.


The cataloger targets shoppers who are 40 to 50 years old, are well educated, earn high incomes and have an interest in luxury items.


Jo Marie Lilly, senior vice president of creative services at Neiman Marcus Direct, Dallas, would not comment about the cost to produce this year's books or the anticipated conversion rate needed to make the campaign a success.


Lilly said there is no plan to use this format in the future. She said the company wanted to create a different book for 2000.


"One of the driving factors in the decision was that we believe in this time-pressed world, people are looking to organize and make things easier," Lilly said. "That's why we divided items by categories to make [shopping] easier."


The 7-inch-by-8-inch books are printed on heavy stock. The "red book" -- which carries the description "Gifts, Sweet Nothings, and Everythings" on its cover -- contains fantasy gifts as well as traditional gifts. The "white book" contains women's apparel and gifts and has on its cover, "Fashion. Frills. Thrills." The "silver book," which features a stencil illustration of an ice skater on its cover, offers children's items, food and gifts for men.


Another break from tradition is that each page contains one or two items, instead of multiple items on a single page as in previous catalogs, Lilly said. The books also contain "panic gifts" for customers who wait until the last minute to shop. These items range from a $15 coffee scoop to crushed velvet slippers for $125.


The submarine is the most expensive item in the books. Found on pages 10 and 11 in the "silver book," it is described as a 188-foot vessel that boasts private staterooms with bathrooms, crew quarters, a galley, and living and dining rooms.


Although some items may seem ostentatious, such as the submarine and a $35,000 stock ticker that was reproduced from a 19th-century original, Lilly said customers expect The Christmas Books to be rich in imagination.


"Each year we are absolutely astounded because we don't know what's going to sell," Lilly said.
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