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Neiman’s, House of Windsor Unwrap Lavish Gifts

September 12, 1994

DALLAS (AP) _ Decisions, decisions.

Will this year’s top his-and-hers Christmas gift be a $7,500 underwater scuba scooter from Neiman Marcus?

Or will it be a $25,000 trip to London that includes dinner with a member of the House of Lords and a stay at Hampton Court, the royal palace that was home to King Henry VIII, from The House of Windsor Collection?

The House of Windsor, a new catalog for Anglophiles, tried to upstage Neiman’s traditional splashy Christmas gift reception Monday, but in an oh-so- British fashion.

Neiman’s showed off its top gifts to faithful shoppers at its lavish morning reception complete with three herald trumpeters, a mother-and-baby pair of grazing miniature donkeys and a Santa Claus wearing a beard, rolled-up red suit and flippers.

Meanwhile, the Windsor gang scheduled a 5 p.m. private reception in New York hosted by Queen Elizabeth’s cousin, Prince Michael of Kent, chairman of the catalog’s advisory board. British trade officials and diplomats were invited, but it was magazine journalists only.

″It’s sort of much more tony,″ sniffed Brad Larschan, president and chief executive officer of the House of Windsor Collection.

″This is a very British affair, and Neiman’s is a very Dallas affair, and we’re just different. But we’re good friends, and we look forward to giving them a little bit of competition,″ he said.

More tony than Neiman-Marcus?

The upscale department store chain has been showcasing extravagant Christmas gifts since 1959. This year, the His and Hers Bellaqua Breathing Observation Bubbles, done in yellow and pink, are a bargain by Neiman’s standards, at $7,500 each. The battery-driven ″BOB″ is ridden like a scooter and can dive to 40 feet.

Other featured gifts include a couple dancing passionate tangos to advertise a $5,995 weeklong New Year’s trip to Argentina; a $7,400 electric gondola sailing on a mini-lagoon; and $370 black-and-white cleated boots for cowboy golfers.

But the hit of Neiman’s show was a 10-foot-tall, 300-gallon elephant-shaped acrylic aquarium for $120,000.

Neiman’s began mailing 3 million copies of its catalog Monday, while 2 million copies of the slimmer House of Windsor holiday catalog also went to the post office.

The Windsor catalog was introduced this spring and is dedicated to the U.S. market. A majority of its items are made by companies holding the Royal Warrant, which means the products have been used in royal British households for three or more years. The average price is about $55.

″This is really the first time that Americans get a chance to do their Christmas shopping at the same place that aristocrats do in Britain and always have done,″ Larschan said.

He did indulge in a bit of name-dropping that might have seemed more in place at his Southern cousin’s, pointing out items he said had been ordered by Cher and former President Reagan, as well as a goblet that holds an entire bottle of wine.

″That’s the piece that Madonna bought, you may not be surprised to learn,″ Larschan said.

Most attending the Neiman’s reception - people who should know serious shopping - said they weren’t familiar with the House of Windsor offerings. However, they didn’t foresee real competition.

″Neiman’s is a tradition,″ said shopper Rebecca Ingle.

Company chairman and chief executive officer Burt Tansky also was nonplussed.

″I’m sure there will always be others that will want to do what we do best,″ he said. ″But I think the original is still the best.″

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