Imagine bounding down the stairs on Christmas morning, hoping you’ll get that bike you’ve been hinting at for weeks. Except this bike is actually a $4,500 electric tricycle.
That’s the kind of merchandise you’ll find in the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, a catalog published annually since 1926 by the high-end retailer. While much of the book is dominated by the standard Neiman Marcus fare – $3,400 handbags, $675 boots – it’s become most famous for its “His and Her” section, introduced in 1960. Since the first offering, a Black Angus steer complete with silver serving cart, the retailer has offered everything from a $20 million submarine to a $7,500 life-size edible gingerbread. The company boasts that the catalog has “evolved into the ultimate wish book.”
The Neiman Marcus catalog has also proven to be rather recession-resistant, says company vice president Ginger Reeder, who handles direct sales for the book. She says sales did not slow following the market collapse of 2008, and the company never gave any serious thought to discontinuing the catalog as the economy tanked. “People would have rioted,” she jokes.
That’s not to say luxury retail didn’t take a big hit during the recession. The retail sector as a whole sagged following the financial collapse in 2008, with average holiday spending plummeting 8% from 2007 to 2008, according to the National Retail Federation. The organization projects spending to increase only marginally for this holiday shopping season.
“There’s no doubt that the recession played a huge role in the luxury market,” NRF vice president Ellen Davis says. “When the stock market began to sink in 2008, many [luxury] retailers were impacted and had difficulty climbing out of the hole.”