Rolling back the years – October 1996-2006

By Merv Robertson October 24, 2016 Rolling back the years

Take a trip back into the Wares archives to see what the magazine has been talking about over the last 20 years. Merv Robertson reports.

To view a PDF of the complete profile as it appeared in Wares magazine, click the download button at the bottom of this page.



In October 20 years ago, President Bill Clinton faced Republican nominee Bob Dole in the first televised debate of the 1966 Presidential campaign.

At home, New Zealand went to the polls to elect its 45th Parliament. It was ground breaking stuff as this was our first election under MMP. Jim Bolger’s National Party retained power but only after protracted negotiations with Winston “Kingmaker” Peters.

Back across the Pacific a couple of weeks later, the OJ Simpson trial began in Santa Monica.


Breville back then – A couple of Aussie blokes, Bill O’Brien and Harry Norville, founded Breville in 1932, initially producing radios and then mine detectors during the Second World War. In 1956 they began specialising in small domestic appliances and in October 40 years later, made it onto the Wares cover where the Baker’s Oven was the star turn.

20 years ago, Kenwood Appliances was the New Zealand distributor and it would be January 1999 before we’d hear about Breville NZ as we know it now with Brett O’Neill at the helm as GM. Brett was promoted to Managing Director two years later.


She’s a hard road finding the Classic Man – Ashburton consumer Bob McKerrow was selected as the 1996 Philishave Classic Man of the Year, the competition which featured on our August 1996 front cover. As a result he got to choose from one of three classic cars.

Having opted for a 1964 Mustang he was presented with the keys by newly appointed Philips General Manager Domestic Appliances, Susie Martin (“Where are they now?” February 2016). I spoke with Bob’s son recently who advises that his dad sold the car within a month of getting it home and passed away in 2012 aged 84.

It’s business, not personal – In the late 1980s and mid-1990s it became fashionable to have a flash new kitchen with the focus on a built-in wall oven and separate cooktop. Mainly in the posh suburbs, a classy dinner party was said to be the in-thing to celebrate one’s new AEG kitchen, almost certainly bought from an independent with specialist knowledge about such things.

AEG was a top German brand distributed in New Zealand by Eurolife and available only through selected retailers. Then in 1996, Eurolife agreed that The Warehouse could sell AEG products.

Wares reported that The Warehouse would be retailing AEG below dealer buy prices, that dealers across the land were therefore rapidly divesting themselves of the brand and heavily promoting alternatives and that the designer kitchen market had changed forever.

Greg Hastings, Eurolife GM, told Wares at the time: “The AEG situation is a purely business decision to ensure the future of the brand in New Zealand.” (Ironic words, in retrospect...)

I note that Eurolife was removed from the Companies Office register around 10 years ago and AEG is now part of the Electrolux stable.


Strongest, then as now? – 20 years ago, Goldair was laying claim to being the “strongest heating brand”, probably with good reason. It had strength in depth across all heating categories and just a quick look around the market shows that the brand is even stronger today.

PDL was the Goldair distributor back then and also had the Skope heating brand, which it was also promoting in Wares. Since late 2000, CDB has been doing the job for Goldair, to the point we hear that it’s pretty much the dominant player in electric heating.


Before BDT there was Melco – On to consumer electronics and TVs. In 1996 Melco was asking a big (and as it turned out, impossible) question: “How to make the television and VCR products of today future-proof?”

Anyway, there were six new Mitsubishi Black Diamond large screen TVs and five new VCRs, all with features providing customers with technology for tomorrow and that was the answer. Future-proof? Well, I’m sure it held true for quite some time.


Sticking it to floorcare – Electrolux Floorcare was “Turning intelligent design into dollars” 20 years back with a range of battery operated rechargeable vacs. Centrepiece was the 2 in 1 Combi ZB256 which, with a full length telescopic handle, could easily convert from an upright to a hand-held. The precursor to today’s Ergorapido anyone?

The first pan-industry awards? – With John Hawkesby as MC and former All Black Eric Rush the after dinner speaker, at the inaugural Appliance Industry Awards just three categories were up for discussion.

Taking out the honours as Retailer of the Year, John Murphy had joined Rices in Invercargill as a Cadet in 1982. Becoming a Branch Manager in 1989, John was a key performer in the company’s legendary retail expos.

Young Retailer of the Year was Deborah Rich of Richmond Electrical in Christchurch. Deborah was Assistant Manager with responsibility for both the showroom and the office, and was the voice behind Richmond’s successful promotional campaigns.

The third award went to Philip Davison, as Service Person of the Year. Philip had recently purchased Waihi Electrical but began his career with AKRAD before joining Pye in Waihi when that company took over.

John Murphy is still based in Invercargill working as Business Manager and Auctioneer for Ray White Real Estate. Deborah is happily ensconced in Sydney with her partner and their children, and Phil has made a complete career change – he’s working as an Emergency Medical Technician for St John in the Waikato, he is also studying for a degree in Paramedicine at AUT.


What’s in a name? – In retail, surprisingly brief mention was made in October 1996 of Noel Leeming changing its name to Pacific Retail Group following the merger with Bond & Bond.

Far more was made of Richmond Electrical. Situated in the Christchurch suburb of Richmond, Hermie Rich had founded the business in 1949, dividing his day between house calls for service and installations, workshop repairs to appliances and valve radios and selling small appliances.

In 1976 Hermie retired, leaving his son, Dennis Rich, to take the reins. The original shop was only about 10m2 but, by 1977, a new 800m2 showroom and workshop complex was at the time one of the largest of its type in Christchurch, with the full range of Fisher & Paykel and National brands.

Richmond Electrical was an inaugural member of the Fapay Purchasing Group, the predecessor to Appliance Connexion, for whom it carried the 100% Your Electric Store banner in Christchurch.

The business closed in 2012, partly as a result of the Christchurch earthquakes and partly because of ill health and it has only recently been listed for sale. Sadly however, Dennis passed away suddenly in July this year, aged 77.

Wares acknowledges the significant contribution the Rich family made to the appliance industry in Christchurch and extends sincere condolences to Dennis’s wife Lois, their daughters Deborah (1996’s Young Retailer of the Year referred to above), Michelle and Adrienne and son Aaron.

At your service – Described as a Service Technician through the ages, Dennis Skinner was deservedly profiled in an extensive interview in October 1996, courtesy of Black & Decker. In 1996 he had been mending electronics for 33 years and was then the owner of Telefix TV Services.

He closed his Wares session by observing that sophisticated technology meant that appliances required less servicing but he couldn’t see the day when service technicians would become completely obsolete.

Today, Dennis is retired, lives in Auckland and has a great liking for swinging golf clubs and catching fish.


October 1996’s movers & shakersDiane Champion was the first of our movers & shakers; having been with Melco for seven years, she was introduced as Marketing Manager of the new Kambrook Division.

At Philips, Susie Martin had been appointed to the position of General Manager Domestic Appliances, promoted from National Account Manager.

Roger Teague joined Sunbeam Victor from Sony, as Marketing Manager and David Haslett took to the podium as General Manager at Email Appliances.

Diane is still in the marketing game, looking after the Wellington region as a Marketing Consultant for Hillcrest Promotions. Susie is Director of Operations at Crossmark NZ and Roger is Manager of the Hasting branch of Fourth Element, retailing lifestyle fires, cookers and outdoor cooking appliances.

After Email, David had a tad over four years at Parex and then worked with Fletcher Building for seven years, on both sides of the Tasman. He is now in Sydney, President and CEO of CQMS Razer, a leader in the design and manufacture of large mining equipment.



It was 15 years ago, in October 2001, that Apple launched the iPod, a line of “portable media players and multi-purpose pocket computers”.

The iPod would be the best thing since sliced bread for the next decade plus, until Apple’s other invention, the iPhone, along with the other brand smartphones which it inspired, became the de facto carrier of music and taker of photos to most of the civilised world.

Equally important along the corporate corridors in the New Millennium that same month was the “Enron Scandal”, whose bankruptcy was the largest to that date. Arthur Andersen’s involvement also made the business world look at accountants quite differently after that point.

This was also the month after the tragedy that’s now called 9/11 took place.


Simple is as simple does – Granted, there are some products which require substantial explanation in ads but, by and large, I believe an effective message is a simple message. In my “previous life” (with Nilfisk) I would never have said this out loud, but a decade ago, Dyson’s advertising subscribed to my theory.

To the average punter a vacuum cleaner is a simple product – plug it in, lug it around the house pick up the dirt, get it back in the cupboard as quickly as possible. Sure we can bang on about HEPA filtration, cyclone technology, suction power versus motor power and so on, but the basic thrust of Dyson’s communication was just six words. They were: “No bag. No loss of suction.”

Simple and effective. There, I’ve said it.


Not shy about success – 15 years ago, companies weren’t shy about telling the industry which dealers had sold the most. Take Sony, which was in a buoyant mood following its highly successful 2001 Incentive Programme for retail sales staff. Top prize, for the sales person who sold the most Sony product during the promotion, was a Harley Davidson motorcycle!

This amazing prize was won by Navjhot Chadda of Hill & Stewart St Lukes in Auckland. Needless to say, Navjhot, a motor cycle enthusiast, told Sony’s Mark Anderson that he was ecstatic with his reward.

Everyone selling over $20,000 went into a prize draw for a trip to London for two and this was won by Peter Hughan of Selectrix 100% YES in Invercargill. He received his award from Sony’s Regional Sales Manager, Gary Webster.

Since then, Mark has moved to Australia and Gary is a Christchurch-based Miele Business Development Manager. No sign of Navjhot but Pete moved to Roxburgh in 2013 and commuted daily to Alexandra where he worked for Central Betta Electrical (now Central Applianceplus) for 2½ years before taking up a 4 day-a-week driving role with Roxburgh’s famed Jimmy’s Pies.


Big deal as mega brand trials smalls – Bosch made a typically low key announcement that it was entering the small appliance market, with National Sales Manager Paul Ravlich telling Wares it had chosen 23 appliances across eight SDA product categories as “a trial exercise” with Harvey Norman to “test the viability of Bosch’s ongoing involvement in a very competitive segment”.

The products were all in the upper to premium end and I guess we’ll see how things panned out in upcoming versions of “Rolling back the Years”. Paul Ravlich’s busy life today sees him with the global powerhouse which is Siemens, doubling up as Regional Manager for New South Wales and CEO of New Zealand.


All about Retravision – 15 years ago this month, Retravision had just held its 2001 Retra Awards dinner at Auckland’s Sheraton Hotel.

Suppliers to be honoured were Arche Technologies, Fisher & Paykel Appliances, Breville and Panasonic while member retailer prizes went to Hubands, Meikles, Dimocks and Smith & Church with Meikles Retravision in Whakatane taking out the overall National Retailer of the Year award.

Hubands Retravision was in the news again later in the same issue when Sunbeam nominated the Northland retailer for the Award for Excellence in Retailing. Although Warren Huband had a mighty Megastore in Whangarei, the award was actually made to his Dargaville branch where Manager Syd Teasdale had been serving Dargaville customers since he pumped gas after school at the age of 11.

Syd preferred to do deliveries after work himself as that not only ensured the customer had a good installation and instruction session, it also gave him an opportunity to take a look at other appliances which could be trade-in candidates!

Warren now owns Hubands Energy in Whangarei, specialising in heat pumps, aircon, underfloor and solar solutions, with a spanking retail showroom recently opened at 15 Kioreroa Street in Whangarei.

Meanwhile, Syd is still in Dargaville, retired but still serving as a JP and Celebrant.


ACL “goes to war” – Appliance Connexion’s 2001 conference was at the Sheraton Mirage Resort in Port Douglas where the key presenter was Barry Urquhart of the West Australian consultancy, Marketing Focus.

His presentations were under the banner of “Business Warfare” and the report said: “He held his audience spellbound as he spelt out in no uncertain terms who the enemy was, how to fight the battle, strategies to employ, advantages to exploit and what counteractions the enemy would be taking in return.”

Supplier presentations were made by a veritable who’s who of personalities, including Panasonic’s Frazer Kerr, Darren Smith from Arche Technologies, Errol McKenzie of Philips, F&P’s Craig Douglas, John Mahar from Electrolux Floorcare, and Brett O’Neill from Breville.

A highlight of conference is always the Awards party and here, the unidentified store gong was won by LV Martin with 100% Heathcote Appliances taking top honours for the YES stores. F&P, Panasonic, Breville, Arche Technologies and Pudney & Lee won the supplier awards.


Movers & shakers 15 years ago – In our Movers & Shakers section there were just two announcements: Jane Waddel had been appointed Product Manager CTV at Philips; and Wayne Johnstone was the new Upper North Island Consumer Sales Representative for Melco.

Jane founded her own marketing consultancy, Marketing Depot, nearly eight years ago and now contracts to several companies with interests across Australasia, whilst Wayne is with the Department of Corrections in Invercargill.



Bic Runga and Dave Dobbyn took out the top awards at the 2006 New Zealand Music Awards in Auckland. Bic also won Album of the Year with Pluto stepping up for best single. This was also the month when the Christian Heritage Party disappeared from our political landscape.


Well, we’re still doing it aren’t we? – Analysing the significance of our independent retailers, that is and 10 years ago the Editor had a real crack at the subject: “Where to now for independent appliance and consumer electronics retailers in the New Zealand market? Can they exploit the differentials of a 21st century before they diminish to the extent that their existence no longer really matters to anyone?”

Betta Electrical, 100% YES and Retravision (now of course defunct) were labelled “Three small groups” and the piece pondered which of three small words, namely “Doom, gloom or boom” would best describe the future.

Retravision has gone of course, but looking in from the outside now, my observations are that although a few have changed hands and some more have closed since then, the independent marketplace is not greatly removed from where it was a decade back.

The letting of blood we saw five years or so either side of the turn of the century has largely been stemmed, hasn’t it? Some are even stronger than they were when that editorial was published, through diversification or specialisation.

Perhaps we can even look forward to Wares delving into the same subject in October 2026? It’ll make for an interesting comparison…

Floorcare pumps it up – In floorcare, Salton was pushing iRobot’s robotic Roomba on TV and Dyson was launching its very popular Xmas giveaway of a child’s toy Dyson vac with purchases of a new Dyson. The brand had just completed a lucky draw promo in which a customer, Rebecca Smith, was presented with a brand new spa pool by Campbell Forlong at 100% Radio House Taumaranui.

Simon Little of Wares made the trip out to Penrose to draw the lucky winner in the Nilfisk Extreme Weekend promotion and the winner, Patricia Jamieson, called into Smiths City Ashburton to collect her all expenses paid Queenstown resort voucher from Curtis Dawson, the Appliance Supervisor.

Campbell is now with Brightside NZ as an Account Manager Warranty Services and Curtis sells motor cars at Hyundai Mid Canterbury.


Aiming high with Goldair – It’s now over four decades since the Goldair brand hit retail here. It became a genuine market leader under the care of PDL, itself a dominant wholesaler of small appliances, fittings, accessories, lamps and, I guess, most things electrical.

The brand has featured often in our “Rolling back the Years” series and, in October 10 years ago, it let rip with a high profile entry into the small appliance field to complement its strengths in heating and electric blankets. In fact, no less than 25 new products were launched including handheld cordless vacs and a comprehensive offering of kitchen appliances.

By then Goldair was distributed by Christchurch-based Specialised Sales & Marketing, whose General Manager, Andrew Crossland, was aiming for Goldair to become “a credible number three” behind Breville and Sunbeam.

CDB now distributes Goldair and has enhanced its position with a broad portfolio of products across portable appliances, heating, cooling and outdoor living sectors.


Who were 2006’s top retailers? – You only need to read Wares this month to realise the 2016 Wares Awards are just around the corner and all Finalists have now been found. That was also the case back in 2006 when it was announced that Wayne Robb of Retravision Morrinsville, Catherine Magness of Magness Benrow Botany Downs and Peter Barton of Noel Leeming Wairau Park had won through in the Retailer of the Year category.

Darren Gittins from 100% Newbolds Upper Hutt, Darlene Goodall from 100% Gary Pye in Waiuku and Phil Rees from Noel Leeming Moorhouse Avenue were the Young Retailer of the Year finalists.

Wayne, after a period on the farm, now has his own business (Meth Test Waikato) and, as the name implies, he tests homes for methamphetamine contamination.

Catherine is still at 100% Magness Benrow as Marketing Manager, Peter is National Retail Manager for Office Max, Darren owns 100% Newbolds in Upper Hutt and Darlene remains with 100% Gary Pye as Financial Planner, Buyer and Retail Manager. Phil has had his own business but has relocated across the ditch.

Visiting an Invercargill iconWares profiled the appliance operation of iconic Invercargill department store, H&J Smith, a department headed up by former Smiths City Buyer, Peter Gallagher and Michael Matheson who had been with the group for 20 years.

H&J’s also had branches in Gore, Queenstown, Te Anau and Balclutha but this article was all about the new, standalone appliance megastore in Invercargill.

Michael was excited about the much bigger area enabling them to feature a more comprehensive range of merchandise and Peter made the comment that being whiteware multi-branded – Smeg, Bosch and Westinghouse - meant they had flexibility in adapting to changing market conditions with the company’s aggressive pricing policy.

H&J Smith bailed out of appliances in 2011 and, after a stint with DTR, Peter is now an Account Executive with Alsco. Michael went into real estate briefly, then returning to Smiths, where he heads up the outdoors division.



Retailers get together – Retravision’s 2006 AGM, Conference and Awards were held at Auckland’s Rendezvous Hotel. CEO Leighton Cox spoke about the strength of the Retravision brand and how members could consolidate that strength by being united and committed to brand standards, by building equity in the brand and developing new growth opportunities within existing categories.

Supplier awards went to Electrolux Home Products, Sunbeam, Panasonic, Vodafone and Pudney & Lee with Waiheke Retravision, Retravision Kaitaia and Retravision Whangarei winning member prizes.

Appliance Connexion had also held a conference, on the Gold Coast, where members found that “TEAM” was just an acronym for “Together Everyone Achieves More”. Described as a “formidable duo”, Chairman Peter Drummond and CEO Wayne Burton ran the show.

The comment which closed proceedings was particularly relevant, sage you might say, but sadly one which seems to be widely set aside by retailers of all sorts of colours – “Turnover is not the vital variable. You can’t bank market share, you can only bank profits.”

Supplier award winners were F&P, HWI, Vodafone, Acer Computers, Nilfisk, Panasonic and Pudney & Lee. 100% Heathcote Appliances, LV Martin, 100% Barrells, 100% Leader & Watt and 100% Selectrix Invercargill took out member silverware.

Marriages, movers & shakers – There was plenty of moving & shaking in this issue, led off by Amanda Gore of Remington and Cliff Carr of HWI Breville. Amanda said “Yes” to Cliff’s proposal of marriage on board a gondola in Venice. Nowadays they are known as Amanda and Cliff Carr, heading up Spectrum Brands and Sunbeam respectively here in NZ.

Elsewhere, Anne Hunuki became a DéLonghi Area Manager, Graham French became SSM’s National Account Manager and Sharp named Anna Smith as its Communications Manager.

Anne is still doing a good job for DéLonghi in her role of Area Manager Auckland South but Graham’s current status eludes me. Anna has her work cut out tending to the children and running her on-line business where she sells multi-nutrient drink supplements (see

At Retravision changes there were four changes, namely Patrick Dodson as Marketing Manager, Wayne Waring as a Category Manager, Tim Young as a Product Manager and Michelle Strickland as Marketing Co-ordinator.

Matt McMillan-Donze was appointed Sales Representative at Direct Imports and Jenny Peploe rounded out the list with her introduction as CEO of Sellagence.

Patrick is now a Buyer at Office Max, Wayne and Tim are both at JB Hi-Fi, as Accessories Buyer and Category Manager respectively, while Michelle is living in Perth.

Matt is a retailer these days as Manager at the Manukau branch of Appliance Shed and Jenny owns The Personal Concierge Company which manages professional personal services for just about anything – from housework to shopping to relocation to handyman stuff to secretarial and much more (see


What was the state of the nation? – Industry panels always make for an interesting read, even though some of the comments need to be taken with a grain of salt. This month 10 years ago, the panel was Appnet’s Warren Brewin, Retravision’s Leighton Cox, the late Wayne Burton from ACL and Nik Papa from Harvey Norman.

Topics under scrutiny were very diverse and included the state of retail, diversification, fighting on price, future growth sectors, the importance of supplier-retailer partnerships, customer satisfaction, the evolution of technology and critical issues of the day.

Warren Brewin talked about “too many retailers and too many suppliers for a small market”, both Leighton Cox and Nik Papa questioned the ingrained outlook of fighting on price alone, a very Wayne Burton comment was “people do business with people!”

Some things never change do they?


Well, that’s another look back over our collective shoulders done and dusted. Next time, we’ll cover past Decembers, including the inaugural 100% Your Electric Store conference in 1996, the launch of DVD recording at the Hilton Auckland in 2001 and all the Wares Awards winners from 2006!

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