Rolling back the years – June 1997-2007

By Merv Robertson June 21, 2017 Rolling back the years

What happened in the industry, as seen through the eyes of Wares magazine, 10, 15 and 20 years ago? 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.

20 YEARS AGO – JUNE 1997

In Denver Colorado in 20 years ago, Timothy McVeigh was convicted for his part in the horrific Oklahoma City bombing which killed 168 innocent people and injured over 600. The same month, John Major resigned as Leader of the British Conservative Party following the worst electoral defeat by a ruling party since 1832. And here at home the Pumas crammed five matches into a June tour, including two Tests, both of which were won handsomely by the ABs.


Oh, the state of retail… – Our June 1997 Editorial bemoaned the state of retail advertising which evidently could not produce anything better than “Prices pushing prices ... down the drain”.

Imaginative wording such as “rock bottom prices”, “Best discounts”, “Crazy in-store prices”, “Low overheads”, “No deposit”, “No payments until August” and “Easy terms available” were cited as examples of why margins were so badly eroded.

Nothing changes eh? Indeed, similar sentiments were expressed by Dennis O’Brien, the subject of our “Where are they now?” this issue. Read how Dennis, an independent, countered that onslaught on page 64.

And find out if price really is still a key selling point in our In Focus feature starting on page 6!


Talking Turkey – Among the most highly regarded brand names in our industry, Grundig stands out. In June 1997, Sound Group Holdings was the brand’s New Zealand distributor and the latest feature-packed TVs to arrive were the “huge” 38-inch super flat screen and the big 33-incher.

The brand is now owned by Arcelik in Turkey, which produces both white goods and AV products under the Grundig banner but not for our part of the world. Among several other brand names owned by Arcelik is Beko, which these days is better known here than its stablemate.

Well I’ll be a Dutchman – Talking of how brands were 20 years ago, it’s fair to say that, before Alastair Sutherland came on board in the early to mid-1990s, Philips was struggling a tad.

Alastair, the company’s first Kiwi Managing Director, and Errol McKenzie (who’d traded his consultancy hat to join full time as Manager of Consumer Electronics), together set about turning things around.

One of the successful programmes they put in place was the Philips Partners Club. So, in 1997 it invited guests to some “High-flying fun and circus magic under the big top of Sky City Theatre”.

Guests included Trevor Douthett (LV Martin), Brian Mason (Mason Appliances 100%), Grant Heathcote (Heathcotes 100%) and John Magness (Magness Benrow), all dressed up for the occasion, David King (King Retravision), Tony Hampton (Nelson Retravision), John Polglase (Stoke Retravision) and Alister Lilley (Smith & Church Retravision). (See the photos above.)

Trevor now owns Baby City, Brian sells Real Estate for Property Brokers in Napier, Grant is still joint MD of Heathcote Appliances and John still drives Magness Benrow.

On the Retravision side, David owns The Dog Club doggie day care in Auckland, Tony manages Kitchen Things Moorhouse Avenue in Christchurch and John is a Kitchen Things consultant in Nelson. Alister still heads up Smith & Church in Ashburton, commenting that he’s pleased he also invested in other opportunities, especially commercial property...


Have Golden Wings, will fly – Back in 1997, Robinson Industries hit on a cunning scheme to promote Krups espresso makers with demonstrators in the Ansett Golden Wings lounges at peak traffic times, showing just how easy it was to make perfect coffee at home, every time.

Rebecca Adams was a Brand Manager at Robinson’s at the time and took up station in the Auckland Golden Wings lounge. These days, as Rebecca Chapman, she’s General Manager Global Marketing at Fonterra.


Peter Wood, from Ted to Taihape – Our very good friend Ted Holland had a long and distinguished career over the first 29 years at the Wanganui Rangitikei Electric Power Board. As the boss of the appliance retail arm, which became known as Powerco, one of Ted’s rising stars was Peter Wood, who had joined the company as a storeman, straight from school in 1970.

25 years later, in April 1995, Peter and his father in law bought the retail business, changing the name to Powerco Appliances and the June 1997 issue of Wares carried a profile of the now identified 100% Your Electric Store.

The branches in Marton and Taihape were later sold on, but neither is an appliance shop today. The Marton site is now home to BNZ and Taihape, after years in the Strange family as 100% Taihape Appliances, is now occupied by Taihape Honda.

At the time of publication 20 years back, Peter Wood was not only the owner-operator and number one salesperson of Powerco, but also a Director of Appliance Connexion and the Appliance Guild.

A Fisher & Paykel dealer, he had experienced retail in the days of allocations and was well able to compare the “then” and the “now” like the times when up to 40 customers would be on the waiting list for automatic washing machines!

Peter’s closing remark from 1997 will strike a chord with many who were around back then: “We’re a people industry and I love that aspect of the job,” he said 20 years ago.

Indeed, 20 years later, all the qualities that Peter brought to his time in appliances, including with DA Morrison after he closed Powerco in 1998, he now puts into practice at Wanganui Motors, the home of Ford and Mazda, where he is Business Manager.

“Yes, for me it’s still about people,” he says today.

Meet the panel – In a Q&A, ask-the-panel style feature, Wares was seeking to get a handle on the state of retailing in the late 1990s. The panellists were Leighton Cox (Appliance Divisional Manager for Retail Traders Society), Tony Hunter (GM of Southcorp Appliances), Bill Belton (Executive Director of Stereo World) and the late Ken Lilley (then Marketing Manager of Melco NZ).

Leighton was realistic about the state of appliance retailing: “All retailers seem to have suffered from erosion of prices as well as margins while trying to entice consumers to spend within the industry rather than outside it.”

Bill believed prospects for the industry looked bright: “Yes, our industry has a strong future because its very nature is in leading edge technology and New Zealanders have traditionally grasped new products in greater numbers than most similar countries.”

On the possible impact of Australian retailers, Tony Hunter shared: “We do not anticipate Harvey Norman having a dramatic impact on our market, as we believe it’s much more competitive than they will have anticipated. We believe their greater opportunity will be in the furniture market.”

Ken’s comment on whether or not The Warehouse would be a genuine contender in the whiteware market was typically insightful: “My gut feeling says The Warehouse would be a genuine contender in any market it wished to pursue.”

Both Leighton and Bill are retired in Auckland, likewise Tony but in Nelson.

Award winners abroad – Domotechnica in Cologne was the prize-winning destination for the big winners in the inaugural 1996 Wares Awards and John Murphy from Rice’s (Retailer of the Year), Deborah Rich from Richmond Appliances (Young Retailer of the Year) and Phil Davison from Waihi Electrical (Service Person of the Year) were obviously somewhat overcome by it all.

These days, life is very different for our trio. John is Sales Manager and Auctioneer for Ray White Real Estate in Invercargill, Debbie works in Sydney as PA to the Association of Independent Schools of New South Wales’ Student Services Division Head and Phil is an Emergency Medical Technician for St John in the Waikato.


Movers & shakers 20 years ago – Only two new appointments were announced in June 1997, both at PDL. Blair Burgess and Dennis Teleiai became Company Representatives in the Retail Division with Blair responsible for Otago-Southland and Dennis looking after Auckland, Northland and the Bay of Plenty.

These days, Blair is an Area Sales Manager for Independent Liquor in Dunedin.

After Schneider Electric took over PDL, Dennis stayed on and last year completed 26 years’ service before opting for a quieter life working four days a week at Scott Electrical in East Tamaki.


15 YEARS AGO – JUNE 2002

Thoroughly Modern Millie won the Best Musical gong at the 2002 Tony Awards held in June in New York’s Radio City Music Hall. At home, at the New Zealand Television Awards Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell picked up Best Actress and Tamati Te Nohotu Best Actor, both for their starring roles in Staunch. Judy Bailey won the People’s Choice Award for Best Presenter.

June’s front cover five years on was again Sony’s, this time promoting its MiniDisc technology, while the Editorial led with an observation that the economic climate was so good that any retailer not making money was surely in the wrong business. High times, the best of times…?

Is it real or is it…? – Philips, now recovered from the struggles of the 1990s, was still doing an excellent job with its All Blacks sponsorship. A major advertising campaign was mounted around Philips widescreen TVs and DVD Home Cinema, with Troy Flavell the starring All Black, in a campaign with one simple message: Philips technology “creates an atmosphere so real they’ll feel like they’re at the game”.

Not to be outdone by the big boys, Hagemeyer also got in on the act with a full page ad for JVC headed “It’s time we showed you our Wares”.

Wares regular Stephen Hodson crops up here as Hagemeyer’s GM Sales & Marketing, alongside three key members of his team: Paula Wade whose expertise was in Account Management; Chris De Wit, newly promoted to Business Development/Product Manager; and Murray Patterson, National Service Manager.

Stephen is now Director and General Manager at Fujifilm NZ and Chris is MD at Endurance Agencies. Murray “semi”-retired a couple of years back and is now enjoying life in Masterton. Unfortunately we don’t know the whereabouts of Paula.


Born in Italy, made it in the Waikato – Waikato retailer Joe Scaramuzza had a fair old time in the industry and 15 years ago, he and his business were featured in Wares. Born in Italy, Joe was a Selectrix dealer with outlets in Cambridge and Te Awamutu, as well as a bed shop in Cambridge.

He felt his best business move was when he joined the Retravision group in 1999 with its “clear focus and direction”. In 2001, DEKA moved out of town and Joe was quick to sign up, enabling him to more than double the size of his store and add a store-within-a-store IT department, plus a dedicated kitchen display area.

By 2002, Joe was clearly chuffed with the expansion, noting that turnover had increased by over 30%.

Joe has retired from active business but still lives in Cambridge and keeps his hand in with some advisory boardroom assistance and governance work, along with property management. He’s also a member of the Business Mentoring Society and an active football referee.


All ’appy at Appnet – Appnet held its 2002 conference at the Duxton Hotel in Wellington. Billed as a mixture of fun and business, at the “We are the Champions”-themed event, General Manager Warren Brewin reviewed the group’s 25% growth for the 2001 year.

Appnet’s ongoing strategies included, among other things, maximising its exclusive AA Loyalty programme and increasing Average Selling Prices by focusing on a core range.

Warren (the subject of our Feb 2017 “Where are they now?” spot) is now CEO at Lifestyle Retail Group, trading as Saddlery Warehouse.


Movers & shakers – 15 years ago, Chris Wade-West from LA’s Universal Electronics was in town. Chris was Sales Director for Australasia and he was visiting Direct Imports, the New Zealand distributor of Universal’s One-For-All products. He was hosted by Brent Malone, DI’s Director of Consumer Products, and took the time to visit retail outlets and group head offices.

Meanwhile, Parex had appointed Greg Cassidy as its South Island Area Manager and Todd Barker into a similar position covering Central New Zealand.

Recently appointed Chairman of the Hawkes Bay Rugby Referees Association, Brent now owns Connoisseur New Zealand, importing, selling and distributing confectionary through the East Coast, Poverty Bay and Hawkes Bay.

Greg is GM Christchurch with NZME and Todd is Sales Manager for Hardy Packaging.


10 YEARS AGO – JUNE 2007

On 6 June a decade ago, in the America’s Cup, Emirates Team New Zealand, skippered by Dean Barker, beat Luna Rossa in the Louis Vuitton Cup in Valencia but would lose out to the Brad Butterworth-skippered Alinghi boat.

Across the ditch, Newcastle, the Hunter Valley and the Central Coast were hit by deadly major storms and severe flooding causing chaos.


Ted’s picks of the year – Philips’ association with the All Blacks was still going strong a decade ago as evidenced by Wares’ front cover which featured none other than Sir Graham Henry who, of course, was ABs coach at the time.

“Ted” was making his picks for the year and surprise, surprise, he listed a selection of Philips products, citing good listening, versatility, brilliance, great vision, excellent control and a big heart as characteristics he looked for when making his picks.


Good health! – Daewoo Electronics NZ was making news in 2007 with a million dollar sponsorship of Health TV. Daewoo’s GM, Steve Penman, said the sponsorship enabled the brand to reach a captured market estimated at 600,000 consumers each month.

These days, Steve’s had a break from the business scene but tells me he is now refreshed and looking for something to challenge him again. I have his cellphone number.


F&P goes for hot Thai – June 2007’s magazine reported Fisher & Paykel moving production of Smart Drive and AquaSmart washing machines and dryers to a purpose-built factory in Thailand.

“The decision to move the laundry plant out of New Zealand wasn’t one which was taken lightly,” said F&P boss, John Bongard, adding pointedly that “Most of our competitors supplying the Australasian market do so from low-cost Asian countries which offer generous manufacturing incentives.”

He also noted back then that the environment in New Zealand for F&P’s type of manufacturing had deteriorated due to such factors as high interest rates, persistently high exchange rates and some trade and tariff policies.

Today, John is Chair, Trustee, Board Member of a bewildering range of organisations and trusts. However, in spite of all this activity, he still does find time to play golf, catch fish and travel…

Who is Number One? – Unaccustomed as he was 10 years ago to accepting awards and speaking in public, HWI’s Managing Director, Brett O’Neill, forced himself to do so when the GfK No.1 Awards were handed out.

In fact the Breville brand nabbed 11 gongs and Brett was more than eloquent in his shout out to his team and retailer partners.

In the Microwave category Sharp was judged top of the heap, for the third successive year no less. Accepting the award was Jan Nicol, Sharp MD.

To this day, Brett is Managing Director at Breville New Zealand (although he has accrued additional responsibilities along the way) whilst Jan still heads up Sharp.

With the ABs 12 years later – By 2007, Philips had been sponsors of Tri-Nations Rugby for no less than 12 years and, with the Test season looming, it was not surprising to see the brand making the most of its connections, with some of the team visiting the company’s Mairangi Bay HQ.

Philips CEO Errol Mackenzie welcomed the players and coaching staff but it was the Medical Systems Division rather than Consumer which was top of mind.

The late David Stanaway was Manager of Philips Medical Systems and he and Starship Foundation CEO, Andrew Young, had also hosted players at Starship Hospital where dozens of excited children delighted in receiving autographs from their sporting heroes.


Harvey’s Lower Hutt home – In retail land 10 years ago, Harvey Norman was setting things alight with a spectacular new glass-fronted “flagship” store in Lower Hutt, a major element within a purpose-built shopping complex.

Lower Hutt Electrical Prop Andrew Horgan had started as a retail salesman at Manukau and prior to moving to the Hutt had successfully opened his own store in Auckland’s Botany Downs. He told Wares: “I’m expecting many things of this store. We want to strive to be the number one retailer in our field.”

After several years in Harvey’s head office, Andrew is now Proprietor for Harvey Norman Commercial.

Harvey Norman’s first Kiwi decade – There was more from Harvey Norman in June 2007 in the form of comprehensive coverage of the retailer’s conference. Marking 10 years of trading in New Zealand, the event was held at the Rarotongan Resort.

Harvey Norman’s NZ GM and Industry Hall of Famer Nik Papa reflected on the Aussie retailer’s controversial arrival. It caused great angst among the local retailers but Nik was unphased, calling it: “An interesting, fun and enjoyable welcome into New Zealand.

“The 10 years have been great and enjoyable. These businesses are not just based on business, they involve the whole family. Every supplier has been so supportive and we’ve done right by the Kiwi. We’re still supporting the brands.”

Eric Bleakley, GM at De’Longhi, summed up the anniversary conference: “The conference was a very good mix of business and future direction, coupled with a focus on further developing relationships. Probably the biggest theme that came through was the importance of partnership.”

Today Nik is Harvey Norman’s Electrical Franchisee in Chadstone Victoria as well as overseeing the group’s Victorian operation.

Eric and wife Linda own their own business, Image Optical Group, supplying frames to opticians.


No “dogfight” for Appnet – The Crowne Plaza in Auckland was the venue for 2007’s Appnet conference under the banner of “Come Together”.

Opening proceedings, Chairman Mike Tomlinson spoke of Appnet’s acquisition of the Betta Electrical brand from Betta Stores of Australia, allowing Appnet autonomous control over the Betta trade mark in New Zealand.

Appnet GM, Warren Brewin, talked about the group’s positioning, preferring to remain aloof and stick to quality products and in-store service rather than mix it with the more aggressive players:

“We intend to stay out of the dogfight and play in the premium end of the market, leaving the low end to retailers that are better suited to that type of marketing.”

Mike is still Chairman at Appnet and Warren is referred to above.


Movers & shakers 10 years ago – Daewoo NZ had three new appointments. New National Service Manager Murray Patterson had 25 years’ experience in the service industry, including Hagemeyer/JVC; Karen Thode became Administration Manager and Claire Robinson was to look after Customer Service Support.

Having joined Award Appliances as a Management Cadet in 2001, Alister Reesby had progressed to become South Island Representative before landing the National Sales Manager role in 2007.

We mentioned Murray’s current semi-retired situation earlier in this yarn and today we find Karen as Purchasing Officer at Key Industries, a pest control organisation. Claire is overseas, actual location not known, and Alister maintains his position as National Sales Manager at Award Appliances.

HWI revealed two new recruits and a promotion 10 years ago with Madeliene Thompson as Customer Service Representative and Neil Culligan the new Wellington Sales Representative. Janelle Ganley had been a popular member of the Customer Services team and was now promoted to Customer Services Supervisor.

These days, Janelle is in residential real estate for Bayleys in Mount Maunganui and Neil, after a stint abroad, is National Sales Manager for Hamilton-based building industry supplier Holdfast. I’m reliably informed that Maddie also planned an OE post HWI, but I cannot locate her right now.

Hopefully you’ve picked up on some familiar faces and names from the industry back in the day, as seen through the eyes of Wares.

In the next issue we will look back on the Electronic Appliance Guild’s 1997 conference in Singapore – an event seen then as an industry watershed – and we’ll reveal a new brand which entered the New Zealand housewares battlefield in 2002, with domination on its mind.

We will also remember two Industry Hall of Famers – Maurice Paykel and Alan Martin – whose obituaries appeared in Wares’ August editions of 2002 and 2007 respectively.  

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