Secret Shopper - Kansas City, MO

From: IGC Retailer, November/December, 2012

Secret Shopper - Kansas City, MO
Suburban Lawn & Garden   
4 W. 135th St., Kansas City, MO   
Shopper's Favorite

From the road, ďSuburban Lawn & GardenĒ stands out boldly in large letters on the red-roof topped white barns of this garden center. I pull through the central entry drive to the spacious parking lot fronting the main entrance to the state-of-the art greenhouse.

Landscaped islands, plant-filled containers, concrete benches and statuary enhance the route to the front door. Staged carts just inside the front door include three sporty electric models. Raised benches and overhead racks for hanging baskets fill the right half of the store with plant displays. All plants are marked with variety, size and price.

A cafe-style area offers free popcorn and coffee, with snacks for sale during busy weekends. Mixed displays of gifts and decor, birding and water gardening merchandise and a wide array of plant care products, tools and accessory items fill the left side of the store. Lifestyle vignettes integrate plants, furniture and decor. Overhead signs throughout guide me.

Most staff members, who are in uniform, greet me and offer assistance; a few, engrossed in their tasks, donít look up. Outside, I find an assortment of carts and a huge fleet of golf carts with metal boxes, with staffers ready to provide one-on-one assistance.

Plants in several shade houses donít match the signage posted. So filled with plants, some of the shade houses donít have pathways, while others look sparse. A few blocks of unlabeled plants stand out.

I check out the displays of playground equipment set up for children to try it out, then explore the extensive array of larger shrubs and trees surrounding the area. Sparse gravel along some of the paths make for muddy spots.

Family Tree Nursery 
8424 Farley St., Overland Park, KS

I find this store tucked within a residential area, a few blocks off a main route. Despite the lack of signage, extensive plantings draw me to the paved parking lot.

I browse through the small plants and assortment of planted containers displayed on raised tables up front. A paved walkway wraps around the perimeter of the outdoor nursery display area, with paved walkways radiating from it. Only a few overhead signs indicate display areas, and they donít always match the plants. Metal stands anchored in cement-filled pots hold identifying signage, some of which are badly faded. But plants, marked with prices, are in good condition.

A water feature toward the front of one greenhouse impresses me, but itís far removed from the water plant and koi display area, and thereís no signage to direct shoppers to it.

Inside the store, gifts and decor fill the center, with hardgoods toward the perimeter. Merchandise organized in sections isnít signed to indicate the categories. While most displays look nice, I spot some shopworn packaged goods.

Each staff member, easily identified by company shirts, offers help with a smile as I pass, even though all are busy. Obviously, customer interaction is top priority.

This good shopping experience could be improved with more signage and attention to detail.

Rolling Meadows Landscape & Garden Center  
12501 W. 151st St., Olathe, KS

Pulling into the parking lot, I initially admire the extensive landscaping. But as I walk up to the entry, I spot four large dead trees - a major hit to my first impression.

Just inside the door, Iím greeted by two employees standing at the register. Shelves to one side of the store display an assortment of basic plant care and control products. The rest of the space showcases mixed plants and decor.

Just outside, I pass raised benches for small plants and hanging basket displays, and head through a graveled area with block-encircled displays of grouped plants. A hoop house, disguised by stained wood to simulate an old barn, bears signage noting shade plants. Display beds bordered by bare tree branches stretch out from this structure. Signage identifies the beds as flowering shrubs, roses or grasses, though each block displays other types of plants as well. While the larger plants look good, the smaller plants include several declining or dead. The gravel layer is thick but so poorly compacted itís difficult to maneuver, even without a cart.

Heartland Nursery & Garden Center
10300 View High Dr., Kansas City, MO

The garden center grabs my attention from the interstate with large lawn banners touting a special sale and colorful, plant-filled islands dotting the parking lot.

I pass the cart return and decorative planters as I approach the store, a greenhouse structure enclosed on one side. The color scheme, purple and green, extends from the trim to the directional signage overhead.

To the right, a large greenhouse devoted to houseplants and tropicals leads into an open area, featuring an assortment of decor in a range of sizes and prices. Blocks of plants, identified with basic signage and displayed on metal benches, fill additional greenhouses. Paved pathways lead to an outdoor display area for large shrubs and trees. While most plants are in good shape, I find a few distressed and poor quality plants in most sections. Most bear prices. Decor items and pottery displays sprinkled throughout catch my attention, but several displays look dusty, picked over or shopworn.

Signage encourages shoppers to ask for help, but not one staff member, even those I pass directly, offer assistance.  

Frey & Frey Mission Gardens Nursery 
13500 Antioch Road, Overland Park, KS

Colorful landscaping bordering the busy road draws me into the parking lot. A few planted containers and hanging baskets accent the tile-roofed entry area. An employee drives up on a golf cart to greet me and offer assistance.

At the front of the store, I spot an extensive selection of photos for plant identification covering the inside wall. Block displays with fixed shelving toward the back fill the remainder of the interior. Lath hanging from the ceiling softens the look. I find a good assortment of basic merchandise but little depth. While thereís minimal signage, products are neatly organized in groups.

Plants steal the show here. There are no decor items, inside or out. Small plants displayed on raised benches sit in the hoop houses closest to the building, while a broad selection of trees await toward the back of property.

Weathered and faded boards in the shade houses distract me, and gravel gets sparser, with weeds cropping up the further back I go. Handwritten signs give a little detail, like sun or shade and color, but most simply list the plant name and price. Numbers within the plant assortment seem proportional, with most depth in the mid-size plants.

It appears this IGC knows its customer base and caters to that, but this company shows its age.

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