BY JULIAN RICHARDSON Assistant Business Co-ordinator firstname.lastname@example.org
JAMAICA Public Service Company (JPS) will next month begin to roll out retail stores that will sell energy-saving products.
The light and power company says the initiative will kick-start a more 'empowering' engagement with its customers going forward.
"It's actually the first time we are venturing into anything like this. We always supported and encouraged; what we are doing now is investing in empowerment, so we are going further," Winsome Callum, JPS's head of corporate communications, told Caribbean Business Report during an exclusive interview at the firm's Ruthven Road, Kingston, outlet on Wednesday.
The new retail stores, branded "eStore", will be located inside existing JPS customer service offices, with the first store scheduled to be opened on April 4 at the Ruthven Road outlet.
JPS will initially offer up to 40 different energy-savings products, including a variety of power efficient gadgets, timers and sensors, said the company's director of sales and marketing, Garth McKenzie.
"Our products will fall into three major categories: equipment that will save energy, equipment that will protect your investment and equipment that will help you to understand your usages," said McKenzie, noting that the company is targeting both the residential and corporate markets.
JPS has partnered with a number of overseas and local suppliers, including Nicorp Limited and its brand of surge protectors.
While items will be on sale, the stores will primarily focus on teaching consumers about energy consumption and how to save, McKenzie said.
"We will be consumed with looking for those things that can help people to change their habits and improve their energy efficiency. Energy efficiency has to be more than just wishing it; it needs some education, tools and gadgets," said the sales and marketing executive.
JPS, which has 15 offices islandwide, will officially launch up to four 'eStores' before the end of the year, but will be offering the new services at all the locations. The company did not disclose how much money was being invested in the venture.
"We will be dressing up about two or three more locations (after Ruthven Road) by the end of the year. For the other dozen or so that won't be dressed up, we will be branding the space to let people know that there is an eStore operation there," McKenzie said.
JPS, for years, has had an uneasy relationship with the Jamaican public, who have become increasingly frustrated with high electricity bills and accuse the company of being rapacious. The relationship hit a low point two years ago when a wide cross-section of Jamaicans, including a government senator and an Opposition member of parliament at the time, joined a social network campaign and wore black in protest against exorbitant electricity bills from the energy provider.
McKenzie said the 'eStore' initiative is aimed at improving the company's relationship with customers.
"We recognise that the value that JPS is giving is not matching up with the cost and this is an attempt to improve that value proposition," McKenzie said.
"What people are unhappy with is the apparent lack of control that they have over their electricity bills," he continued. "We are a business so we expect to earn money, but more importantly we need to have customers that are more empowered so that they are less disgruntled."
JPS announced earlier this week that customers will see a 10 per cent hike in their electricity bills this month, largely due to higher fuel costs and the depreciation of the Jamaica dollar.
Against this background, Callum noted that different macroeconomic factors have made it now even more critical for Jamaicans to focus on energy savings. JPS wants to help consumers realise this goal, she said.
"People say they have tried conservation and they don't see the results, so we want to help them to actually see results," Callum noted.