* 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 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
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.
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
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
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)