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The History Behind The Neiman Marcus Christmas Book

Ally/Criminal Wisdom

For almost a century, Dallas-based retailer Neiman Marcus has sold some of the most extravagant holiday gifts on the planet. 

A look at some of the gifts offered by Neiman Marcus in the early 1970s.

The company’s annual Christmas book has offered everything from matching his and hers submarines to a 10-pound solid gold wig. Ginger Reeder is vice president of corporate communications for Neiman Marcus and she joined KERA's Justin Martin for a look into the Christmas book’s history.

Interview Highlights: Ginger Reeder

… On the age of the Christmas book:

“The Christmas Book is 88 years old. We date it back to a 1926 Christmas card full of gift suggestions to our customers. It’s a tiny little mailing. But the real Christmas Book took off … starting in the late 1950s when Stanley Marcus decided to include these fantasy gifts, or as he referred to them – ‘stunt pages’ -- every year.”

… On what was in the first book:

“You could have bought, much to the chagrin of many people – a lizard covered cigarette case for women, which was quite shocking at the time. There were negligees, there were sweaters … there were about 26 different gift ideas.”

… On where gift ideas come from:

“I get about 200 to 400 different ideas every year from outside the company – and then some things I might be watching something on TV, I might be at a movie, and I might say: 'Hey! That might make a great fantasy gift!' And then I have to go develop it.”

... On whether a gift was too extravagant or risky that had to be pulled:

“Not after it had been selected. We’ve had things like a working guillotine that was proposed and that probably would have gotten a lot of publicity, but didn’t seem quite right for Neiman Marcus, so we passed on those.”

… On the really expensive items selling or not:

"It just depends. If someone out there is really looking for that particular thing and we’ve managed to capture their imagination, they’ll tend to buy it.”

… On what happens to the items that don’t sell:

“People always say: 'Do you have this secret Neiman Marcus warehouse full of submarines and mummy cases?' Most of these items are on consignment, so we typically don’t have them in-house.”

… On the book adjusting during hard fiscal times:

“Not really. I mean I think certainly in 2008 it was challenging because we launched the Christmas Book two weeks after Lehman Brothers folded – and that was a tough time for everybody. But we still sold one or two fantasy gifts. So, again, our suggestion is not that this is something that everybody needs. Certainly we don’t suggest that anyone needs any of this. But, just as when we were children and holiday season approached and we anticipated ‘Ooh what am I going to get? Is it going to be a new bicycle, is it going to be a new Barbie dream house?' Just because we’re adults, we don’t have to give up that sort of anticipation. We just notch up the game a little bit.”

Justin Martin is KERA’s local host of All Things Considered, anchoring afternoon newscasts for KERA 90.1. Justin grew up in Mannheim, Germany, and avidly listened to the Voice of America and National Public Radio whenever stateside. He graduated from the American Broadcasting School, and further polished his skills with radio veteran Kris Anderson of the Mighty 690 fame, a 50,000 watt border-blaster operating out of Tijuana, Mexico. Justin has worked as holiday anchor for the USA Radio Network, serving the U.S. Armed Forces Network. He’s also hosted, produced, and engineered several shows, including the Southern Gospel Jubilee on 660 KSKY.