Merchandising Doctor: Boulder’s HealthStyles becomes more visually fit

Fitness stores might feel there is little they can do to make heavy, black and difficult-to-move equipment exciting, but there are ways to add visual interest to the fitness retail environment without a costly renovation. The SNEWS Merchandising Doctor pays a visit to HealthStyles in Boulder, Colo.

Merchandising elliptical machines, bikes and treadmills is no easy task. Fitness stores might feel there is little they can do to make heavy, black and difficult-to-move products exciting, but there are ways to add visual interest to the fitness retail environment without a costly renovation. The most important thing is to be aware of some general visual merchandising principals. Read on for the SNEWS Merchandising Doctor's diagnosis and treatment during a visit with HealthStyles Exercise Equipment in Boulder, Colo.

The Patient:

HealthStyles (, located in a busy strip mall in Boulder, Colo., is chock full of everything one needs to establish a home gym: treadmills, ellipticals, upright and recumbent bikes as well as a healthy assortment of colorful accessories. The space boasts beautiful exposed brick walls along the south side of the building, and offers a training area at the rear of the store for personal trainers and their clients. The Boulder HealthStyles is one of eight locations for the Colorado fitness chain.

The following changes took place over a few weeks beginning with a visual assessment. HealthStyles received a checklist of things to consider that corresponded with photographs at each stage in the process. Pictures are an essential assessment tool for before-and-after success measurement, and they don’t lie!

The Diagnosis:

Color is one of the most powerful visual merchandising and attention-getting tools, with an emotional impact that should not be underestimated in the retail environment. Though accessories may not pay the rent, they are the brightest and most colorful products and can be a valuable tool in drawing traffic throughout the store. HealthStyles has a particularly healthy assortment of accessories and our job was to make them work harder by strengthening their wall positioning.

The value of focusing on walls first regardless of retail environment is twofold:

  • Walls always dictate adjacency and product placement on fixtures, tables or floors. Walls tell the big-picture story.
  • Working from big picture into details keeps projects moving and allows room to pivot, should what’s planned on paper not pan out perfectly.

The Treatment:

  • Create visual interest and spread out colorful accessories to drive traffic throughout the entire store.
  • Organize product categories and create product stories on slotwall.
  • Clean up and consolidate trainer's area.
  • Add graphics.

The Process:

The first step in our visual re-do was to better define categories and add some visual interest to the rear of the store. Once the trainer’s area was tightened up, some colorful graphics hung and wall stories determined, it was time to dive into the details.

Balance wall definition – The before image (below) shows that the framed graphics on the Bosu or balance wall are taking up valuable merchandising space and the actual display is too thin. A common error in many retail environments is to scatter a category throughout the store to "make sure everyone sees it," but it is far more effective to "go big or go home." In the after image we see a solid balance story that demonstrates the variety of product on hand. Graphics are still available as a training tool, but have been lowered to make room for merchandise.




Wall behind registers The wall is now cleanly devoted to one product. Inventory of Acu-Hoops benefited from being placed at eye level versus primarily on the floor, and the register area became approachable, once cleaned up and de-cluttered.



Weight wall –
Long walls (more than 8 feet) that are devoted to one product category need breaks to provide some structure for merchandise identification and decision making. Here, the walls were divided into three sections and foam rollers nicely frame the unwieldy product below while also getting the rollers off the floor. Another strategy that makes wall development easy on the eye is to create patterns reflected in alternating wall sections.



Accessory wall –
Accessories draw traffic into the store and, like the weight wall, needed some category organization. Yoga, resistance bands and other miscellaneous items are now merchandised together. Kettle balls provide nice grounding and stand out thanks to the kettle ball workout books right above. Previously the kettle balls blended into the black monotony of fitness equipment, but here they take center stage which is a good thing given their current popularity.




Not sure how to apply this in your own store? Consider the following generic tips that can pack a pretty powerful punch:

  • Create uniform signage (same color paper, font, etc.). Signage stands out more when it's consistent.
  • Merchandise from small (at the top) to large (bottom) and light to dark whenever possible.
  • If you must have "empty" space, it should always be at the bottom of a fixture or wall.
  • Defining categories and creating patterns in sections is an effective method of breaking up long walls, much like commas break up long sentences.
  • Generate interest with color, whether it be relevant graphics or bright product.
  • Peg placement, shelves, etc., should start at the same height to keep walls looking clean and organized.
  • Remember that cashwrap is not a dumping ground and can repel potential purchases in addition to making customer check out inefficient. When any area inside your store is messy, it sends a subliminal message to your consumers, and the message isn’t, “I care about my store.”

Robin Enright, aka the SNEWS Merchandising Doctor, is the founder of Merchandising Matters which provides visual merchandising and marketing support to the outdoor retail industry.

Email the SNEWS Merchandising Doctor at to have your merchandising challenge considered for publication in a Merchandising Doctor column. There is no cost for an initial consult by Robin, and if you are tapped to be featured in our Merchandising Doctor column, the advice and guidance leading to a fix (up to four hours of merchandising time – either in person or a virtual consult) is free. Actual hard costs such as new fixtures, lighting, travel expenses and more are the responsibility of the retailer.



The Merchandising Doctor gives Boulder Running Company royal sock treatment

The patient: Boulder Running Company (BRC) a top specialty running store located in Boulder, Colo., features gear for every level runner and is well-known for its ability to custom fit customers. There's even a treadmill in the store on which customers can try out shoes before more


The Merchandising Doctor reorganizes Hip Consignment

One of the big challenges in opening a store is forming a relationship with a new physical space. Even with elaborate planning and endless attention to detail, nothing takes the place of actually inhabiting the space. Sometimes your primary wall becomes a wall you barely more

Merchandising Know-How: Visual merchandising trends

A trend is defined as "the popular taste at a given time." It may not be readily apparent, but there are definite trends in the visual merchandising field. A closer look reveals innovations in color, graphics, lighting and technology all designed to enhance store environments. more


Merchandising Doctor: Organizing to maximize end-of-season selling

Merchandising at the end of the season when everything in your store is priced to move -- and you have few solid runs of anything to work with -- can be challenging at best. However, there are a few basic merchandising methods any retail can successfully use to generate increased more

Merchandising Know-How: GlobalShop '05 -- Visual Stimulants

In my last two columns, I've shared with you the things I found at this year's GlobalShop held in Las Vegas. While much of what is displayed at the show isn't useful for the independent retailer, anyone could walk away with plenty of good ideas to spruce up their store. Now's the more


Merchandising Doctor: Solving the dilemma of a diverse product mix

This column marks the second of the new SNEWS® Merchandising Doctor series written by merchandiser Robin Enright. Email the SNEWS merchandising help team at to have your merchandising challenge solved and featured in a Merchandising Doctor column. Details more


Surprise me: Safety is the new risk in visual merchandising

All too often today, the surprise in merchandising is that there are no surprises. Your windows might feature mannequins wearing the latest gear and flashing bright color, but the same is true of the retailer next door or down the street. So while I’d give you an “A” for color more


SNEWS Qs, Fitness: Woody Fisher, Treadmill Doctor

Woody Fisher Director of national accounts Treadmill Doctor Manufacturers, perhaps you don’t care what Treadmill Doctor thinks about your products. But consumers do, so you should check out what they’re saying, and have been saying since 1998, about your products on the company's more

Merchandising Know-How: More Favorite Things

When attending visual merchandising shows like GlobalShop, I'm always looking for those fixtures, props and unique materials that are apropos for outdoor retailers. It can't be things that are too over the top, too expensive or too “department store-ish.” At the last more