Neiman Marcus 2009 gifts go luxury lite

Tue Oct 6, 2009 5:22pm EDT

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* Neiman Marcus pares down its most outlandish gifts

* Most expensive gift is sports plane for $250,000

* More than half of gifts under $250

By Aarthi Sivaraman

SEATTLE, Oct 6 (Reuters) - Neiman Marcus [NMRCUS.UL], whose holiday gift catalog is a hallmark of opulence, unveiled a "lite" version for 2009 on Tuesday, offering an Icon sports plane for a mere $250,000, a $105,000 Jaguar car and a $25,000 cupcake-shaped car.

The relatively modest version of the Neiman catalog is the latest sign that the world's most extravagant shoppers may not have as much cash to burn on gifts.

"That catalog is the equivalent of having their own temple of luxury -- something that is above and beyond," said Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the Luxury Institute, a research firm. "That extreme level now has been brought down to earth."

A year ago, Neiman Marcus proffered a $1 million custom-designed golf course and $10 million horse farm within weeks of a global financial markets collapse. No takers emerged, but a $275,000 collection of vinyl records of top rock and pop music hits did find a home.

Past offerings from Neiman have also included a $20 million submarine, mummy cases containing an actual mummy, and a mermaid suit that could be used while swimming.

"So many wealthy people were living above their means," said Pedraza. "The economy reset their value and they've had to reset their minds."

The 2008 holiday season was one of the worst in decades. U.S. holiday sales in 2009 are expected to fall 1 percent according to the National Retail Federation, as consumers continue to shun unnecessary items, and focus on necessities. [ID:nN05375558]

Even holiday "hot toys" are skewed toward price tags under $100, in line with consumers' frugality. [ID:nN30235456]

The message is not lost on Neiman Marcus, though its gifts have not lost their outlandish flavor.

More than 40 percent of the retailer's roughly 400 holiday items are under $250, the company said in a statement. Its most expensive offering is the $250,000 Icon A5 sports plane.

For car lovers, there is a $105,000 limited edition Jaguar. And the $73,000 Mission One electric motorcycle -- called the world's fastest electric sports bike -- is sure to call out for those with a need for speed.

In contrast, the cupcake car designed by artist Lisa Pongrace travels at a top speed of 7 miles per hour.

If you relish intellectual delights, Neiman will arrange a private dinner party with some of the world's sharpest minds. The $200,000 round table event at New York City's Algonquin Hotel includes dinner and conversation with people like Henry Louis Gates Jr., Christopher Buckley and George Stephanopoulos.

The catalog, which began as a Christmas card for shoppers in 1915 and became more regular from 1926, showcases the latest in high fashion, shoes and luxury items from jewelry to wallets.

Perhaps this year's standout -- the $8,500 artwork whose focal point is a preserved African Flower Beetle signed by artist Mike Libby.

(Reporting by Aarthi Sivaraman; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Richard Chang)

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