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Neiman's offering collectible electronic gift certificates.

NEW YORK--Neiman Marcus is expanding its electronic gift card program this spring by introducing collectible cards featuring the same original artwork shown on the covers of new issues of The Book, its monthly publication.

The specialty retailer's gift certificate program differs from most other retailers' in that it is not paper-based. Instead of printing gift certificates, the company issues plastic cards containing magnetic stripes on the reverse side, much like an ATM or credit card.

A customer buying a gift card requests that a certain dollar value be "loaded" onto the card's magnetic stripe. When the gift card recipient redeems the card for merchandise, the purchase amount is electronically deducted from the value of the card.

Billy Payton, vice president of marketing and customer programs at Neiman Marcus, said the company converted its paper-based gift certificate program to the plastic cards several years ago. Paper gift certificates can be costly and time-consuming to generate, but Payton said cost savings is only a side benefit of moving to the electronic cards; the objective was to build brand identity and market share.

"The paper gift certificate is not much fun to buy, and it's not much fun to give as a gift. It was very antiquated," he said.

Unlike paper gift certificates, the colorful plastic cards can become collectibles that reinforce the Neiman Marcus brand in the eyes of the consumer, he added.

To take advantage of that opportunity, the retailer has begun issuing gift cards with the same artwork featured on the covers of The Book, a full-color catalog mailed recently to customers enrolled in its InCircle loyalty program.

Last spring, Neiman Marcus introduced a family of gift cards correlating to holidays such as Mother's Day, Father's Day and conveying messages such as "Best Wishes," "Thank You" and "Congratulations." Payton said it's these cards that form the base gift card program, because they are geared to highlight year-round special occasions.

"The need for those cards is year round, but I look at what we just introduced -- this collector series tied into covers of The Book --to be an incremental promotion, to create additional interest and to offer our customers a gift card that is seriously a collectible," he said.
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Title Annotation:Neiman Marcus' electronic gift card program
Author:Power, Denise
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Mar 23, 1998
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