Brockton mailing company installs 2,067-panel solar array on roof

·        Brockton mailing company installs 2,067-panel solar array on roof

Jim Clark, owner of the Brockton-based JLS Mailing Services, said the goal is to reduce his company’s power usage to become a net zero energy business, meaning that the total amount of energy used there will become roughly equal to the renewable energy produced at the building.

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Jim Clark, owner of JLS Mailing Services in Brockton, decided to install a 536-kilo

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By Marc Larocque Enterprise Staff Writer

Posted Dec. 15, 2015 at 4:10 pm Updated Dec 15, 2015 at 5:00 PM

BROCKTON – A Brockton business owner climbed a ladder on Tuesday morning and overlooked 2,067 solar panels neatly organized on the roof of his 100,000-square-foot building.

“To remain competitive in this day and age, you have to think ahead like this,” said Jim Clark, owner of JLS Mailing Services, located at the former Caldor department store on Crescent Street.

Clark said that his print mailing company, which employs nearly 50 people, is seldom thought of as environmentally friendly because of the amount of paper it uses. But Clark said it is exciting for his almost 100-year-old company to be on the cutting edge of “clean” renewable energy, while also achieving savings that will help it hire additional workers.

“For a company like ours to embrace new technology to maintain its viability, it’s pretty exciting,” Clark said.

The 536-kilowatt solar energy system at JLS Mailing Services cost $1.26 million, but the company said it would achieve a return on investment within 10 years. The project was completed about a week ago through a partnership with the Hopkinton-based Solect Energy.

The annual electric savings for JLS Mailing Services will start at $93,000, which accounts for 80 percent of the power used by the Brockton company.

JLS Mailing said it would also receive Solar Renewable Energy Credits worth at least $1.3 million over 10 years. The total estimated annual revenue and avoided cost from the project is roughly $200,000, the company stated.

Clark said the goal is to reduce his company’s power usage to become a net zero energy business, meaning that the total amount of energy used there will become roughly equal to the renewable energy produced at the building. In addition to the solar energy production, this means JLS Mailing will continue to improve its energy efficiency, through other projects like the recent installation of LED lighting, Clark said.

While cutting overhead costs was a key motivator for the project, Clark said he hopes that the solar energy system will get his employees and customers thinking about reducing their own carbon footprint, just as world leaders recently met in Paris to forge a non-binding, yet precedent-setting agreement to combat climate change.

“We took a detailed look at what we can do as a small company in the global economy,” Clark said. “The positive impact on employees is that they are now more energy conscious. …. We feel very good about this and our employees and customers are excited for us as well.”

JLS Mailing Services relocated to Brockton in 2000, Clark said. The company was founded in 1920 as the Joyce Letter Shop in Boston. Clark bought the company in 1983.

Clark said he first became interested in investing in solar energy after a solar industry representative contacted him four years ago, after seeing a satellite photo showing the company’s large roof and other ideal conditions.

“All the stars aligned for us on this particular project,” Clark said.


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Why the Print Catalog Is Back in Style

J. C. Penney’s recent announcement that it is resurrecting its print catalog reflects a trend of retailers returning to the print medium as an important sales and marketing tool.

While Bloomingdale’s and Saks Fifth Avenue have been mailing catalogs for years, now specialty retailers are picking up the tactic.  Some, like Anthropologie, are launching new catalogs, while J.Crew and Restoration Hardware have significantly upgraded their catalogs in the past couple of years.  Even digital retailers such as Bonobos, the menswear retailer, and Birchbox, the beauty subscription service, have started mailing catalogs.  According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), catalog mailings grew in 2013 to 11.9 billion.

The last time companies showed so much interest in catalogs was in 2007, when catalog mailings peaked.  In that year alone, a DMA study showed 59% of multichannel marketers had increased their catalog circulation from the year before.  J.C. Penney’s catalog distribution had swelled to 70 different mailings, in addition to its annual 1,000+ page “Big Book.”

But then the Great Recession hit, and retailers looking to trim their expenditures cut catalog budgets.  With the concurrent rise in online sales and marketing, print media seemed like a waste.  Although some holdouts remained (notably, Patagonia and Brookstone), catalog circulation continued to decline for the next several years.  According to the DMA, in 2012 mailings dropped to its lowest level since it began collecting annual data in 2001.

The recent resurgence in the popularity of catalogs raises questions about their value and long-term viability.  Is the latest rebirth of the catalog merely a reflection of the Great Recession’s conclusion? Will they once again fall out of fashion at the first sign of softness in the market?

Given the new dynamics of multichannel marketing and commerce, as well as the new targeting and measurement capabilities of catalog marketing, I think catalogs are here to stay this time.

Multi-channel shopping and buying is on the rise, and retailers know that customers who use more than one of their channels are usually the most valuable.  In fact, Nordstrom reports that customers who have a multi-channel relationship with the brand spend four times as much as those who do not.  Bonobos shares similar results, with Craig Elbert, vice president of marketing, reporting that 20% of the website’s first-time customers are placing their orders after having received a catalog and are spending one and a half times as much as new shoppers who didn’t receive a catalog first.

Catalogs are also uniquely designed to help marketing departments fulfill their objectives.  Marketers are increasingly challenged to produce a specific return on investment for

efforts.  The effect of a broadcast spot or social media campaign on sales may be hard to pin down, but catalogs — with their definitive mail dates and customer and source codes — are easier to track.   Targeting with catalogs is also much easier now, thanks to huge industry databases containing all sorts of information on millions of households. And thanks to online purchasing, many retailers have amassed their own customer databases that can be synced up with them.  This combination gets the right catalogs into the right hands.


What’s more, new production and printing capabilities in print media have taken the cost and complexity out of versioning — the industry term for tailoring different versions of a catalog to different customer segments.  Outdoor and apparel retailer L.L.Bean says it is experimenting with the page count of the catalogs it sends to regular website shoppers.  Steve Fuller, chief marketing officer, explains that instead of sending every customer his brand’s largest book, he looks for frequent website visitors and asks, “Can I only send her 50 pages, or 20, as a reminder of, ‘Oh, I’ve got to go to the website’?”

Retailers have also discovered that catalogs can be used for high quality content marketing. High-touch print pieces filled with stories, fashion show images, profiles of celebrity endorsers and designers, and room layouts have proven to be excellent ways to convey a brand ethos and express a brand personality.  For instance, Williams Sonoma has started including recipes in its catalogs, next to the products consumers need to cook them. And Restoration Hardware has elevated brand-building through catalogs to an art form.  Its 2014 annual catalog was actually comprised of up to 13 “sourcebooks” with more than 3,300 pages of luxurious photography, profiles of designers and craftsmen, inspirational stories — and yes, products for sale.  The extravagant catalog is part of the company’s effort of “becoming a brand worthy of loving,” as chairman and CEO Gary Friedman explains.  ”We believe what we are doing is moving beyond an intellectual connection to an emotional one. We are beginning to express those things we deeply believe in a way you can see it.”

The need to engage customers at this higher level is unlikely to go away even if the economy takes another turn downward.  In fact, as more products become more similar and as the Internet continues to provide increasing access to more products, print catalogs and their content will grow as means to differentiate brands and sustain existing customer relationships.  Great brands integrate catalogs with email marketing, social media, and other tactics into a distinctive, memorable, and valuable brand experience for their customers.

Catalogs may seem old school, but their increased capabilities and the brand-building potential suggest they’ll remain a staple in retailers’ toolboxes – and consumers’ mailboxes.

By Denise Lee Yohn

Printed in The Harvard business review