Kathmandu Man



The hunt is over!

Those who know me will be stunned to hear I spent more than $500 on clothing last month.

That’s about as much as I’ve spent in the last five years.

I’m a style disaster.

I hate clothes and shops (and they hate me right back).

So how did one retailer win my dubious custom in the worst conditions for a generation?

This tale has tips for both sides of the till.

Spinning a yarn

It was cold, wet and windy as I cycled some rented movies back.

Opposite the video store, Kathmandu was holding a 20%-off sale.

My $10 Adidas liquidation-stock jacket wasn’t cutting it any more. (In fact, it never had.)

Dripping and shivering, I just had to see how the Kathmandu side lived.

It was busy.

Infants hurled themselves from change-room chairs while a melee of punters circled the store.

There was only one salesperson free, but she saw me milling and swiftly divined my needs.

She led me to the jacket I should have bought long ago: light, soft, warm, waterproof, elegantly designed and very well made.

And, thanks to a special deal, within my grasp.

If I joined Kathmandu’s Summit Club for $10, I’d get double the discount – i.e. 40%.

Also, for every $500 I spent in the coming year I’d get a $25 gift voucher.

My last barrier to entry fell away.

Fully mental jacket

It was the most comfortable garment I’d ever worn.

The next day, I returned for the matching pants.

Two days later, I duplicated the ensemble.

Then I studied Kathmandu’s website to see what else they sold.

Then I bought hiking shoes and socks.

Each time I entered the store, the staff:

  • Greeted me within seconds.
  • Refrained from laughing at my appearance.
  • Answered all my dumb questions.
  • Weren’t snooty – even though the only hills I ever climbed lay between suburbs.
  • Were remarkably polite, friendly, helpful, credible and grateful for my business.

When Fonnie came home to see me fully kitted out, she couldn’t believe it.

Her many efforts to dress me had long been thwarted.

Yet here I was: a grown man – buying his own (stylish, matching) clothes!

Vox pop

I quizzed a few Kathmandu staff for this blog post and learnt that:

  • They only run the Summit Club deal twice a year, so as not to devalue it.
  • It’s very popular – especially in New Zealand (the firm’s country of origin).
  • Though Aussies are less brand loyal and more price driven, the company is navigating the retail doldrums better than many.

I find this a good-news story on many levels.

I’ll definitely go back again.

So what say you

to  Kathmandu?

| Founder & Senior Writer – The Feisty Empire

  • Can’t say I’ve had the same retail dream experience in there, but perhaps I’m coming off a higher base (camp) than you. :-) I do enjoy their sales though. However, with respect to Katmandu, the sales discounts are often so vast that one wonders what margin they’re making at the full list price. Anyway, can’t wait to see your full ensemble, Paul. And so glad you climbed a retail mountain. Next you’ll be fording every stream.

    • Great to get your views, Ad, especially as you often move about in the natural world.

      Margins are interesting. There could be a post on that topic …

      May we ALL reach our dream! :)

  • Congratulations Paul! I’m very happy for you.

    You may also like to know that Jan Cameron, the founder of Kathmandu, is quite the philanthropist supporting animal rights (having donated $5M to start the Animal Justice Fund) and various other charities including donating 60 acres on the Freycinet Peninsula to create safe havens for Tasmanian devil breeding populations and also Brightside Animal Sanctuary in Tasmania.

    She made a small fortune from the sale of the Kathmandu business. It’s good to see some of that being shared around.

    • Struth, Suey; that’s some extra insight! I didn’t know that. Maybe some of Jan’s goodness seeped into the systems and staff before she left. They seem uncommonly … nice. :)

      • Giving back … ANOTHER topic worth tackling. 😀

  • Malcolm Owens

    Great post, which store did you visit?

    I’m in need of some serious kit before leaving for the Solomon Islands next week so Im now going to Kathmandu.

    Always love a good service experience!

    • Thank you, M! It was 161 Smith St Fitzroy VIC (opposite Videobusters). Just a short … hike from your office! :)

      • Actually, I reckon it’s in Collingwood – not Fitzroy … but Leon would have more to say on that kind of suburban snobbery. 😉

      • … If you do end up going, Malcolm, please drop back and let us know how you got on. I’d love to hear. :)

  • What about a photo of you in the new gear now that your ensemble looks so good? Seeing is believing Paul!

    • Alas, Winston, you ask too much. As my post next Tuesday will reveal. Sorry about that!

  • This post gladdens my heart. Retail done well. The way it should be. Bravo to Kathmandu!
    I would like to briefly touch on the “margin” subject… Margins are what provide the jobs, the staff, the training, the premises, the stock, the ability to be philanthropic. So can we let go of cheapest and recognise that margins and profit are not always a bad thing?

    • Oh good show, Debra. I REALLY wanted to get your expert eye on this one. :)

      I take your point on margins and don’t mean to imply they’re bad. Rather, I’m interested in comparing 0.1% margins of flat screen TVs to 400% margins on thimbles of icky bubbles at public events.

      Any light you can throw on THAT phemonenon would be much appreciated.

      Thanks so much for visiting, Debra! 😛

  • Great post Paul. I love Kathmandu and their sales are great. Most people I know will only shop there during the sales though because you kind of feel ripped off otherwise.

    Nice to hear a good news story about a retailer. So will you be shopping more often in future?

    • Thanks for that, Denise. I don’t think I’d ever have bought all that gear at full price. But now that I’ve tried it, I’d be tempted to replace bits over time. Though I think I might wait for the sales too. Kathmandu must HATE that. Or is it part of their Master Plan?

      It was a huge hurdle for me to conquer this shopping mountain. While more open to the concept, it may take a while for me to come around to the rest of the … range. I appreciate your interest! Best regards, P. :)

  • G’Day Paul,

    I’m with Winno. Where’s the pic Paul? Where’s the pic? But my burning question is this; did you find out which Mandu was Kath? Smith Bloody Street must be going upmarket. My son’s been to Kathmandu and the Himalayas and didn’t bring back any new gear. They told him it was all in Fitzwood.

    Of course, now that Fonnie knows that you can buy your own clothes, none of those old excuses will work any more.

    Can’t wait for the pics!

    Your most unsartorial friend,


  • Smith Street is indeed going upmarket, Leon. The gentry are making their move in a big way. In ten years we won’t recognise the joint.

    And here’s some pics, you rotten sods … :) http://pinterest.com/paulhassing/portrait-ideas-for-people-who-hate-being-photograp/

    • G’Day Paul,
      I recognize you as the gorgeous yellow flower in the centre of the screen. But I’m still perplexed. Of the others, which is Kath and which is Mandu?

      That shade of yellow really suits you. What’s Fonnie think?

      We old HR types have hidden talents. But don’t tell anyone. They’ll just “want a faster horse” as Henry Ford’s supposed to have said.

      How’d ya like t’be “The Fitzwood Frangipanni?”


      • You got me there, Leon.

        Fonnie supports any hue other than grey, which is what I’ve been wearing for years.

        Kathmandu Black is actually quite racy for me! :)

        I’ll take the Fitzwood Frangipanni over the Brown Bomber. I can’t even hit a Low C! :)

  • Well done, Paul! Hope you’re feeling snug as well as well dressed now :)

    Love hearing about good service – and what they did wasn’t that hard, either – but I never go in their stores without a sale (and then often find their stuff overpriced still.) I agree a margin is necessary for business survival but greatly exceeding that leaves people feeling ripped off.

    Last Friday, I discovered that Qantas staff now greet people by name every time they present a boarding pass. It was nice to feel like a person not a number as I boarded – again, a simple bit of service that makes a difference.

    • Thank you, Tash. I’m wearing my outfit as we speak. Such a shame I don’t have a camera on my computer. Readers will just have to envision my visage.

      Interesting that you do the sales too. Could Qantas be taking a leaf from Virgin’s book? :)

  • Great service. Great sales. Wouldn’t want to be shareholder though. They had a profit warning in December.


    :) J.

    • Clicked on your link, Paul. Can’t find any pix of you in your fancy new duds.

      Perhaps you could mix and match with a vintage Fluffy’s Chain t-shirt? 😉

      • Sorry I can’t help you out, Jas. If I knew there’d be this much interest in my appearance, I’d have stuck to haikus! :)

    • Fascinating, Jas! There’s a spike at the end – right where I spent my 500 bucks. I reckon that’s gotta be worth another gift voucher … from the shareholders! :)

      • Why don’t you write a haiku describing how you look in your new clothes……..?

  • Head to toe in black:

    soft as night; safe as houses.

    Held fast. At long last.