Neiman-Marcus, the Dallas-based specialty department store, has promoted former merchandising manager Harold Nelson to vice president and general manager of its Washington store.

Nelson, a 37-year-old native of Washington, was with Woodward & Lothrop at its downtown and Chevy Chase stores for seven years before joining Neiman-Marcus in 1978.

Nelson began his career as a trainee in Woodies' downtown store in 1971. He subsequently was promoted to department manager of Woodies' Chevy Chase store and assistant store manager for Woodies' downtown store before leaving for Texas.

In 1978, Neiman-Marcus appointed Nelson a buyer in its downtown Dallas store and, in 1981, reassigned him to assistant manager of its store here, located across the street from his old haunts and newly found rival, the Chevy Chase Woodies.

Nelson is optimistic about the store's prospects, noting its location above the newly opened Freindship Heights Metro station is "an opportune one." He said the store's goal is to become the leading fashion retailer in Washington.

Nelson succeeds Jeremiah Murphy, who, after two years as Washington store manager, has been named division manager for shoes at the store's Dallas headquarters.

Neiman-Marcus, a subsidiary of Carter Hawley Hale in Los Angeles, specializes in fashion and specialty retailing. Its 7-year-old Washington store is one of 21 stores nationwide.