Page through the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book and you're bound to come up with a rose-gold something. In this year's case, it's a Cobalt Valkyrie-X private jet coated in the metallic hue of the season, selling for a cool $1.5 million. In case shoppers were confused, the plane "is a premium way to fly," according to the catalog, which handily calls it "just the thing if time is of the essence."
Always opulent, the Dallas-based department store's holiday catalog doesn't disappoint in 2016. In fact, the jet is more than $1 million more than last year's priciest offering, which was a trip to India. And despite its trendy sheen, the plane is lacking the celebrity of 2015's $150,000 motorcycle custom-built by Keanu Reeves. Mr. Reeves was most likely too tied up filming "John Wick, Chapter 2" to lend his mechanical prowess to outfitting the Valkyrie-X. Still, with every plane purchase, Neiman Marcus plans to donate $200,000 to its art charity foundation.
This marks the Book's 90th year after its first publication as a 16-page leaflet in 1926. The annual offering is more of an exercise in brand marketing than a realistic direct sales endeavor, say experts.
Neiman Marcus' Book, and a similar offering from London-based Harrod's, provide the high-end brands with the ability to prove quality and breadth of merchandise, two important emotional engagement drivers for department stores, said Robert Passikoff, founder of consultancy Brand Keys.
"From a media perspective, [these catalogs] are not readily tossed into the recycling bin, so whether you are purchasing a private island or a weekend retreat at a castle…they are there as brand reminders for months, if not years," he said.
Weighing in at 300 pages—that's 104 more than last year's—Neiman Marcus' Book features more than 700 items this year. Like last year, 40% of the goods are priced under $250, but ouch to the wallets on that other 60%. Other standout items include a $7,599 tennis table in reclaimed wood with a leather net (paddles included); his-and-hers island cars trimmed out in Lily Pulitzer prints for $65,000 each; and a $395 child's battery-operated Maserati, which is driven by a cape-wearing toddler on page 273. Those looking to channel their inner "Downton Abbey" can pony up $700,000 to spend a week of Lady-Mary luxury at three English estates, while fans of the classics might be inclined to spend $100,000 on a curated assortment of three dozen children's books that are first editions or early printings.
Of course, there are a few items that could appeal to the 99%. The catalog offers a $10 double Old-fashioned glass with a gold monogrammed initial. Or cash-strapped shoppers might gravitate to a six-pack of marshmallows retailing for $10—divided amongst six friends, that's less than $1.67 a marshmallow. And a sign that the rose-gold trend may be losing its luster—an $80 pair of tweezers in that metal is featured in the beauty section on page 228.
In general, catalogs remain effective marketing tools, and even some native ecommerce brands, like Bonobos and Rent the Runway, mail out their own multi-page missives as a way of connecting with customers.
"The physical receipt of a catalog can also carry more resonance with the consumer, conveying the lifestyle look and feel of the brand and bringing it directly into the hands of the consumer," said Neil O'Keefe, senior VP of CRM and member engagement at DMA-the Data & Marketing Association. "Many brands have seen returns on modern catalogs as they come alongside in synchronicity with brand messaging from other channels and devices."
Neiman Marcus' catalog mails out to 750,000 households this year.