Black Friday: Neiman Marcus catalog thumbs nose at the recession

I have to giggle every time I see a new Neiman MarcusChristmas Book. The outrageous annual catalog features extravagant items priced so lavishly, it's hard to imagine many people can afford them. Selling items from the catalog, may not, however, be its intention. Rather, it's used as a marketing tool.

$15,000 gingerbread house from the Neiman Marcus catalog If you haven't seen the 84th edition of the catalog, brace yourself. Filling the pages this year are more than a few gratuitously priced items: a $15,000 edible gingerbread playhouse (right), a $125,000 private party organized by Colin Cowie, and a $4,500 adult-size tricycle for three featuring seat and canopy fabrics by Tory Burch.
Among the most interesting products are a a $1.5 million glass creation for the bottom of a swimming pool by artist Dale Chihuly, and $6,000 ukuleles made from gourds by Danny Ferrington, who has made instruments for rock stars George Harrison and Keith Richards.

Shoppers will also be able access the annual catalog on the recently launched iPad application from the luxury retailer.

Similar to last year and in nod to our times, Neiman Marcus graciously keeps half the items in the catalog under $250 for those with a tighter budget. However, I having a feeling a lot of us on a "tight budget" might go somewhere with deals we'll be able to afford, like Dollar Tree or Walmart.

Though ridiculous and expensive, items in the Neiman Marcus catalog are always very intriguing. As a kid, items featured in past Neiman Marcus Christmas catalogs like a truck load of pink air, a solid chocolate Monopoly set, or a toy tiger decorated and draped with diamonds and other precious stones might have caught my eye, but my middle class parents would never have bought such silly things. Even as an adult, other past items like a gold toilet seat or a Mermaid suit (that comes with a mermaid tail, faux pearl top and swimming lessons) still could get me to bat an eye. But I'm not sure any of theses items would actually get me to open up my wallet, even if I even had the cash for it.

The entire production feels more like an ad campaign than a ploy to get shoppers to drop a ton of cash. According to the company's website, The Neiman Marcus Christmas Book began in 1926 as a 16-page booklet intended as a Christmas card to the retailer's best customers. By 1939, it had transformed into an annual Christmas catalog, which automatically draws publicity from the national media for a its tradition of unusual and extravagant gifts not sold in stores. Since 1952, the Neiman Marcus tradition of carrying unusual and extravagantly priced items was going full force.

The response to the Neiman Marcus catalog is really what we look forward to, and perhaps what the company intends. Across the board, the reactions are great; maybe one woman who commented on a story by the AP said it best when she wrote, "Anyone who can afford a $15,000 gingerbread house should take that money and give it to a food bank." I tend to agree.
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