NEW ORLEANS-``Get down from there!'' Mangy kids!
Dealers tired of shouting at mom's and dad's little ones while trying to tout the virtues of the newest tire line might want to check out Activities Unlimited, a Metairie, La.-based toy company.
The firm markets tables, chairs and other gadgets designed to hold the interest of children who would-in less fortunate dealerships-be wreaking havoc on waiting areas, showrooms and service bays.
Activities Unlimited displayed its products for the first time at the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association trade show in New Orleans, Oct. 12-14.
``It's been a great show for us. We'll be here next year without a doubt,'' said Fred H. Shear, owner of Activities Unlimited, just before holding up a wad of order forms filled out by dealers attending the show.
Activities Unlimited has long sold its products to car dealerships, airports, doctors' offices and video stores, he said, and finally decided to try tire dealerships.
``Tire racks, cardboard displays-to a child that is a playground,'' Mr. Shear said.
The company prides itself on being able to outfit even the tightest waiting areas, according to Mr. Shear, noting they provide a free custom design layout service based on each dealership's space requirements. Among the company's products are a 17x16x16.25-inch block table and an 18x18-inch activity board that hangs on a wall.
``If you don't have space, ask yourself: `Do you have space (for kids) to run?'*'' he said. It's more dangerous in small places because they can get into more.''
Dealerships with more room to devote to a children's area can choose from large ``Wonder Walls''-wooden boards that contain six activities including a play telephone and a steering wheel-and indoor/outdoor versions of play cars and fire trucks made of welded metal.
The company's most popular items, however, are sturdy, wooden tables with colorful tops that can interconnect with plastic building blocks.
``They are very, very durable,'' Mr. Shear said while standing on top of a red, green, blue and yellow table.
Most of the firm's items range in price from just over $100 to about $500. Activities Unlimited also sells accessory items, including a colorful carpet splattered with numbers and letters, a ``Children at Play'' sign, and small, solid-plastic chairs.
All of the activities are geared for children between the ages of 1 and 6. Children over 6 years old respond better to television, Mr. Shear said.
The store items keep children focused on safer areas, making a more pleasant shopping experience for customers and staff and improving customer relationships, Mr. Shear added.
``You can't correct another parent's child,'' he said. ``If you do, that's a one-time customer.''