SHOW HOUSE-MATES NEIMAN MARCUS, SHELTER MAGAZINE EXPECT 25,000 AT THEIR $4 MIL DIGS

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The "show house" concept goes uptown with a $4 million edifice backed by shelter title Southern Accents and pricey retailer Neiman Marcus Co.

Inside the house, another $3 million to $5 million in exquisite merchandise and decor has been supplied by sponsors, whose products will be seen by the more than 20,000 expected to visit the site in Atlanta's exclusive Buckhead area.

The "Holiday House" is the second such joint effort of the Southern Progress Corp. title and retailer, and it underscores the growing trend among shelter books to create homes to display advertisers' wares. But this example far exceeds other show houses, which usually cost about $1 million to build and furnish.

Southern Accents' partnership with Neiman Marcus is another new twist, extending the promotional reach of the effort far beyond the house itself and the pages of the magazine.

RESPECTIVE STRENGTHS

"Our strength is in design; Neiman Marcus' strength is in tabletop and other interior design touches, and by joining forces we complement one another's offerings," said Publisher Bill Carey.

Southern Accents joined the show house trend somewhat late; other shelter magazines including sister magazine Southern Living and Meredith Corp.'s Traditional Home have used show houses for several years to boost ad revenue and create hands-on promotional opportunities for readers.

When Southern Accents got on the bandwagon, it had to take a grand-scale approach to meet readers' expectations, Mr. Carey said, explaining: "We cater to a small group of very upscale people who are very knowledgeable about design. To be relevant, we had to make a big statement."

Southern Accents' first show house last year was hardly a shack. The magazine built a $3 million home in Dallas, visited over seven weeks in September and October by 22,000 visitors. A 112-page special section was created to promote the house, with more than 70 sponsors, driving strong ad sales in the September 1997 issue.

100-PLUS MARKETERS INVOLVED

For this year's house, more than 100 marketers -- regular and new advertisers plus one-time sponsors -- are involved, and the house is backed by a 150-page special section describing its design and contents. The 400-plus page issue appears on newsstands late this month.

Sponsors include dozens of manufacturers of window treatments, carpeting, bedding, linen, china and masonry. BMW and Jaguar cars will be parked in the driveway; Escada is providing a full couture line in the master bedroom closet; Bobbi Brown is supplying cosmetics in the vanity; and Emilia Castillo is providing an exclusive Mexican silver collection available only at Neiman Marcus.

The retailer will promote the show house via in-store events throughout the South; its goal is to "elevate the store experience from a wonderful shopping event to an entire lifestyle," said Steve Kornajcik, senior VP-creative services.

The "Holiday House" opens its doors Nov. 3. More than 25,000 visitors, each paying $15, are expected to tour the 11,500-square-foot home. Admission proceeds will benefit local charities.

Cable channel HGTV is creating a 1-hour special on the house, set to air seven times in December. The house will remain open to visitors through Dec. 13. Afterward, it will be sold to a private buyer.

CUSTOM PUBLISHING

The show house partnership with Neiman Marcus that began last year has created another line of business for Southern Progress.

This year, the company published Neiman Marcus' first-ever custom magazine, InCircle Entree. The publication goes to Neiman Marcus' 150,000 highest-spending credit card customers, belonging to the InCircle category.

The first issue appeared last April; a second, 136-page issue comes out this month with 50 pages of advertising.

About 40% of the advertisers were Neiman Marcus vendors; the remaining 60% were regular Southern Living and Southern Accents advertisers.

Mr. Carey said Southern Progress hopes to publish InCircle Entree quarterly next year.

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