- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2006

LAS VEGAS — Escalator: $100,000.

Display water fountain: $20,000.

Bird repellent: $150.

Keeping shoppers in the mall: priceless.

Companies hawking everything from colored escalators to products that are supposed to keep birds and their droppings away descended on Las Vegas this week for the International Council of Shopping Centers’ annual convention.

Water fountains with hourly shows prompt shoppers to stick around the shopping center to see the displays — and shop more, according to David Billadeau of Waterworks International, a Kankakee, Ill., company that makes and installs the water fountains.

“It’s something different, Mr. Billadeau said. “Movie theaters can make [water] shows that correspond with music from a movie.”

Fountains cost from $20,000 to $5 million; splash pads, the flat surfaces that shoot water on suspecting and sometimes unsuspecting passers-by, are most popular.

At one shopping center, he said, the water fountain drew so many people — and so many hands trying to interrupt the flow of water, sending it everywhere — that area stores pitched in to pay for a guard to keep people away.

That guard has an easy job compared with employees of a company with a booth down the way that has arguably one of the dirtiest jobs of them all: eliminating bird droppings.

Bird-Be-Gone is a Mission Viejo, Calif., company that sells and installs products to keep birds — and their byproducts — away.

“It’s a difference of appearance,” said spokeswoman Meredith Walako. “If your signs or outdoor advertising looks like a mess, it’s not going to be effective.”

Bird-B-Gone supplies netting, spikes or horns, which resound with the noise of the birds’ natural predator, to roofs or awnings of more than 1,000 shopping centers across the country, owner Bruce Donoho said. The method depends on what type of bird is causing the, um, problem. Solutions run from $150 to $1,000.

Amid the booths of software companies, roofing specialists and air-conditioning installers, one was trying to brighten up shopping centers.

Schindler Elevator Corp., a Morristown, N.J., company, sells escalators in the traditional black and silver, but is also branching out to all colors of the rainbow for the railings or the stairs.

“It’s a way for our customers to distinguish themselves,” said spokeswoman Kathy Rucki.

Schindler says its customers in the South are typically anchor stores that use their dominant colors on the escalators. A run-of-the-mill escalator runs about colors on the escalators. A run-of-the-mill escalator runs about $100,000, with color running the bill up about 10 percent.

Another company was trying to convince shopping center developers about the importance of strollers — not plain, usually complimentary strollers, but fun, child-friendly carts.

Vend-A-Kruzzer sells strollers that look like miniature bumper cars. A set of strollers runs from $18,000 to $35,000, depending on how many are purchased.

The $4 fee for each cart rental goes back to the shopping center.

“Sometimes it’s the small ways you make a difference in customers’ eyes,” said product manager Susan Maher.


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