Earlier this month, the New Zealand-based outdoor gear and apparel brand Kathmandu launched a new store in Melbourne’s Galleria shopping plaza, and it did so in what may soon be hailed an Australasian first for sustainable retail fit outs.

Opened for business on the 14th of November, the store has been created with the support of the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA), which may soon endow the project with a five-star green rating – the first awarded for a retail shopfront.

Because of the landmark nature of the Green Star rating within the retail sector (it has been applied previously for residential and office buildings), GBCA used the Kathmandu project as test case in order to develop the tool for the purpose.

Kathmandu’s store design and development manager, Gabriele Accadia oversaw the project and said that the goal of attaining the GBCA rating required sustainability to become a focal point for every part of the design.

“In order to get this Green Star rating meant more than just sourcing sustainable materials,” he said during a recent tour of the new store. “We’ve developed a deeper understanding of how we use energy as a result of things such as lighting. Not only have we used energy efficient LEDs throughout this store, we’ve designed it in such a way that these can be switched off or dimmed when natural light is sufficient. In this case, cutting carbon emissions also means cutting costs, so it’s an easy decision to make.”

Kathmandu's CBD store plaque

Plaques installed around the new CBD store advertise the various elements that contribute to the Green Star rating.

Accadia also highlighted the importance of engaging Kathmandu’s construction partner on the project (J+CG Construction) to ensure they also understood the eco-friendly principles the brand sought to promote.

The resulting store uses natural clay instead of concrete render, as well as flooring and paint all derived from sustainable materials.

GBCA’s chief executive, Romilly Madew said the initiative will also send a clear signal to the rest of the retail industry.

“Kathmandu is showing the rest of the retail industry that sustainability is a strategic business decision – one that reinforces brand equity and commitment to ethical business practices,” Madew said.

While the accreditation and development of the project has incurred extra costs, Accadia said these costs were either absorbed on a one-off basis, or that they would lessen as the project is replicated across other outlets.

“We can’t necessarily achieve the five-star green rating across every single store – not all of them have access to the same level of natural lighting, for example – we will be taking what we’ve learned here and applying it to other locations in the coming months and years.”

Being seen as a sustainable business also pays dividends when it comes to attracting customers, and this may already be paying off for Kathmandu, which has been marketing its use of recycled materials in its products for some time.

At a recent trading update during the company’s annual general meeting, Kathmandu announced that its same-store sales growth had risen to 6.5 per cent in Australia after months of flagging sales.