Venus Fashion turns to sun

Solar power will fuel swimwear maker’s daytime power needs.

Jacksonville-based Venus Fashion Inc. will install rooftop solar panels to power its EastPark facility during the day.
Jacksonville-based Venus Fashion Inc. will install rooftop solar panels to power its EastPark facility during the day.
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Swimwear-maker and women’s fashion brand Venus Fashion Inc. will be basking in the sun.

The Jacksonville-based women’s apparel manufacturer intends to install 2,187 rooftop solar panels.

The panels will provide the majority of the power Venus needs for its operations at the main building during the day, said President Jim Brewster.

Currently, Venus buys its power from JEA, which will continue to supply power.

Brewster said the panels will be sourced through Advanced Roofing Inc. of Fort Lauderdale and likely will come from North America.

Advanced Roofing is the contractor for the $1.25 million project. KAMM Consulting of Deerfield Beach is the electrical consultant.

Plans show the solar photovoltaic project is approved for connection to JEA’s grid.

Venus sells bathing suits and clothing online and by catalog. It is based on 6.1 acres at 11711 Marco Beach Drive in the EastPark business center in Southside.

The 128,000-square-foot building, built in 1995, contains administration, customer service, call center, swim manufacturing, returns processing, offices and other functions.

Venus Fashion is a company within Germany-based Otto Group, which bought Venus in 2009.

Brewster said former Otto Group Chairman Michael Otto was a pioneer in driving social and environmental responsibility for businesses, focusing on minimizing environmental impact and promoting positive practices.

“For more than 30 years, the Otto group, and Venus for the last nine years following the purchase by Otto Group, have successfully combined business goals with social and environmental responsibility toward people and nature,” Brewster said in an email.

Brewster said while the return on investment is a little longer for a solar panel project than some other investments, “the project supports our corporate culture to be socially and environmentally responsible.”

The Otto Group is a global retail and services group with about 52,300 employees. It owns 123 companies in more than 30 countries in Europe, North and South America and Asia.

Venus Fashion grew from less than $30 million in annual sales at the time of its purchase by Otto Group to more than $300 million today.

Last year, it added about 250,000 square feet of space at One Imeson in North Jacksonville to the 100,000 square feet it leased there since early 2015.

Venus Fashion relocated into the larger space, more than doubling in size in order to maintain its service levels for its growing business, Brewster said.

He said Venus has almost 1,000 employees, split about evenly between Imeson and EastPark.

Brewster said Venus still makes a little less than 50 percent of its swimwear in Jacksonville; the rest is made in the U.S. and internationally.

He said Venus employs about 100 seamstresses and will hire more, but they are hard to find in Jacksonville.

The company also sells fashion products in addition to swimsuits.

Those are made in the United States, Europe and the Far East. The majority is imported.



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