Neiman Marcus's catalog of outrageous fortune: this year, it's a cupcake car!
The notorious annual catalog from the luxury department store just came out, and it's full of its usual list of extravagances. A seaplane -- including pilot's-license training for two -- runs $250,000. One of an edition of 50 specially pimped-out 2010 Jaguar XJLs costs $105,000. One of just 10 electric sport motorcycles is $73,000 and includes a one-on-one session with a pro on a test track. And if those rides are too expensive or traditional for you, there's the cupcake car created by artist Lisa Pongrace -- it only goes seven miles an hour, but it is electric -- and it's yours for just $25,000.
The catalog, started in 1926 as a treat for store regulars in Dallas, has grown into an annual show of extravagance for Neiman Marcus Group Inc. But compared to past year's offerings, these look almost down-to-earth. The 2007 edition featured a $1.5 million submarine, and a private concert for 500, hosted by Regis Philbin, for $1.6 million. By comparison, this year's catalog features a dinner at the Algonquin Hotel with authors including Christopher Buckley, Nora Ephron, and Malcolm Gladwell for the bargain price of $200,000.
Well, it's still way over-the-top, given the times. But the catalog has always been more about creating a buzz for the holiday season than selling anything. The planes and submarines get all the attention, but the bulk of the catalog is a more normal collection of high-end gifts -- the standard crystal and leather goods. In fact, Neiman Marcus says that 40 percent of the items in this year's book cost less than $250. And inside this store, that's a bargain.
Although luxury retail is in the dumps this year, stores like Neiman Marcus can't afford to sell cheap trinkets without endangering the future of their franchise by going too far downmarket. So you can't blame Neiman Marcus for trying to have its cupcake car and eat it, too.