Rolling back the Years: October 1994-2004

By Merv Robertson October 01, 2014 Rolling back the years

This time we’re rolling back the years to October, 10, 15 and 20 years ago, to revisit the appliance and consumer electronics industry as seen through the eyes of Wares magazine. Merv Robertson reports.

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



20 years ago the cult movie Pulp Fiction was released, starring John Travolta, Uma Thurman and Bruce Willis. Also that month Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and New Zealand lost an ODI to India by 7 wickets in Baroda – Ken Rutherford made 108 for us and Sachin Tendulkar 115 for them, both run out.

Wares’ October 1994 front cover featured an illustration captioned “Footprints on the Moon” from Sharp whose by-line was “Someone has to be first”. Hoover was also advertising “The Ultimate Carpet-Care Machine”, the new generation U2462 Turbo Power 2 upright cleaner. Evidently it was “stronger, quieter, more powerful and more profitable”. More than what? The previous model? Competitors? Advertising standards might have something to say these days…

Parex wants you as a new recruit – Parex was on the charge 20 years ago, so much so that with the success of DéLonghi and InSinkErator, they wanted more: “We want to buy your product, agency or company. If you want to sell up or improve sales, talk to us first.”

Paul Tooley, Peter Hawkins and Harvey Alison were standing by to talk turkey. Paul now operates his own customised sales training company, Peter is semi-retired, working part time as a Consultant for Placement Solutions while Harvey keeps his hand in as a company director as well as running literacy programmes at One Tree Hill and Otahuhu Colleges. 

Are you old enough to remember the days of line drawings, bromides and transparencies used to make up print advertisements? The process of paste-up and manual production of dealer advertisements was it until Image Net came along. Suppliers could now have all their product images and templates stored in a data bank and users had electronic access 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Denise Langdon (“Where are they now”, Wares April this year) was the inaugural GM.

Life before BDT – Before Black Diamond Technologies (BDT) there was Melco, a company known for creative dealer launches. 20 years ago, our sadly missed colleague Ken Lilley was Melco’s Executive Director and he said: “Retailers should be maximising their dollars by investing in technology which is the way of the future and has the potential for the most return, Home Theatre.” 

In line with this concept, the company released four new Black Diamond video recorders with a Wild West themed launch, at which Andrew van Bunnik of Melco and Tony Hall of Appliance Centre Takapuna were snapped looking every inch the gun slingers. Tony is currently a Category Manager at Mitre 10 and Andrew is Sales & Marketing Manager at FARMIQ Systems.

Movers & shakers 20 years agoShona Gow was Sony’s Product Manager for portables and mini/midi systems when it released the impressive CFD610 portable, boasting a 6-disc CD changer, remote control and 100 W of PMPO power! The RRP was $699 or around $1,100 today. Retravision later promoted it with six free CDs and $200 off… 

Sticking with Sony, Roger Teague’s appointment as Field Sales Manager was announced and Dean Burrell joined Microsoft distributor Brimaur as an Account Manager in the retail sector. Roger is currently looking for a new challenge, having declined a move to Christchurch when his most recent company, Farmlands, merged with CRT and Dean is an Account Manager at 2degrees. 

Back then, Kenwood was pushing mixer trade-ins. The magazine reported “astounding” results that “far surpassed dealer expectations”! No wonder when we see that the punter could stump up to a participating retailer, trade in an old device and get $150 off a brand new Kenwood Chef! In my days as a young retailer in Dunedin during the mid-late 1960s, mixers were invariably purchased by a male, “for the wife”. 

Central to the issueLaurie & Annette McDonald opened Central Home Appliances in Tarbert Street Alexandra in the late 1980s and in 1994 were appointed Dick Smith distributors. Laurie told Wares that after they had kitted out the shop with the Dick Smith livery and colour scheme, they needed new premises to cope with the increased range and foot traffic: “Our first month was brilliant. We’re ready for the Xmas rush and plan to take full advantage of that holiday period by opening seven days,” he said at the time.

The store later became an unidentified Appnet dealer then fully certified as a Betta Electrical store before selling out to John & Denise Feron. The Ferons extended the Tarbert Street premises twice before relocating to the corner of Limerick & Ennis Streets where they now trade as Central Betta Electrical.

What became of KT’s people? – Kitchen Things was profiled in the October 1994 issue under the headline of “Golden opportunities”. Branch Managers Nigel Little (Hamilton), Doug King (Mt Eden), Glenn Petterd (Parnell) and Marjory McGrane (Takapuna) were about to jet off to Sydney, focusing on what similar retailers might be doing better and transferring those ideas back here. 

Peter Perrett, the group’s Managing Director said: “It is important they see things through their own eyes, not just mine.” 

Nigel is now National Commercial Business Development Manager for Harvey Norman and is a judge for this year’s Wares Awards. Doug seemingly went to the UK and Glenn, now retired, went into furniture retail with Target, before renovating houses on his own account. 

After 10 years at Kitchen Things, Marjory went back to hairdressing before she too retired. Peter is now on the Gold Coast and has his own business, iD-tect, specialising in software development with a focus on human identification and access management. 



September 1999 saw TVNZ sell its stake in Sky TV while November would see Helen Clark and the Labour Party enter office in much the same way it didn’t in this year’s election. But nothing much actually happened in New Zealand in October 1999, outside the pages of Wares magazine that is…

Elsewhere in the world, 31 people died in the Ladbroke Grove rail crash in London; Parkinson was voted Most Popular Talk Show at the UK National Television Awards and the All Blacks lost to France 43:31 in that famous Rugby World Cup semi-final at Twickenham. Remember, coach John Hart moved Jeff Wilson to fullback and Christian Cullen to centre – that worked!

 Breville then as now! – Breville had the October 1999 front cover (then as now in fact – why change a winning formula?), telling us it had “Better ideas for the new millennium” and inside, a fold-out displayed the summer’s offerings. Then, as now, Breville was also using TV sponsorship to great effect. Indeed, Brett O’Neill, Breville’s GM (then as now), announced the brand’s sponsorship of the popular TV show, 5.30 With Jude.

In a case of then definitely not as now, Wares devoted more than half of its Editorial column to the cancellation of the annual industry awards due to poor entries. The Editor was scathing of retailer attitudes, concluding with: “It appears to me that too many retailers expect to open their doors and the business will just roll in. It won’t. If anyone wants my dollar then they have to earn it, just as I did.”

Every one a sucker? – Central vacuum systems were becoming popular with Ultra Clean NZ, the distributor for Ultra Clean Canada, one of the market leaders with 20 years in the business. This was the only kitset CVS available at the time and an ad was taken in Wares calling for expressions of interest in becoming part of the Kiwi dealer network. 

Andrew Black, Chief of Filta Vacuum Products, of which Ultra Clean was a subsidiary, recalls: “We picked up this agency and established a dealer network, mainly through our existing Filta dealers but it was hard work! The established players were tough to crack and after three or four years I decided to concentrate on core business and shut down Ultra Clean.” 

But Andrew still owns Filta Vacuum Products and has engaged Lee James (formerly of Noirot and Monaco Corporation before that) as General Manager. “I live just north of Raglan these days,” he told me recently. “Lee runs the show day to day and I pretty much manage by remote control.” 

Duracell’s blaze of glory? – Duracell’s “Operation Safety” blazed into action in October 1999, a major retail campaign to support fire safety education and the importance of checking smoke alarm batteries. 

 Too many New Zealanders lose their lives in house fires which could have been prevented with the installation of a smoke alarm, reliable batteries and regular checks,” said Bernadette de Bono, Business Manager for Duracell. 

After 20+ years away, Bernie then moved back to home-town Dunedin and now has the role of Farmer Marketer & Sponsorship-Events at Silver Fern Farms head office.

Koreans making an impact – 15 years ago, LM Rankine in Wellington was the New Zealand distributor for LG Electronics. The company had made tremendous progress since a modest first year (1987/88), when yours truly joined the company to launch Goldstar soon after its appointment by Lucky Goldstar (hence LG) of Korea. 

In Wares’ October issue, LG’s emphasis was on whiteware, showcasing a range of Turbo Drum washing machines and frost-free refrigerator/freezers. In the copy we read that LG produced 2.2 million refrigerators annually for the world market. These days, the LG refrigeration division has plants in 7 countries, employs 8,000+ people and has a capacity of nearly 13 million units.

It’s timely at this point to look back at Samsung’s roots in New Zealand. Radiola Corporation began operating in New Zealand way back in 1913 and in 1993 was appointed the local consumer electronics distributor for Samsung. 

By October 1999 it was growing the brand to meaningful levels and took a full page advert covering a diverse product range which included a 21” CTV/VCR combo retailing at $899, which is around $1,300 today. 

Just over 10 years later, Radiola’s website would announce: “As of the 28th of February 2010, Radiola Corporation Limited has ceased to trade” – Samsung had established itself here and commenced its own distribution to dealers.

Local makers “all white”, thanks – Email Appliance’s 1999 roadshow releasing the latest range of Simpson Opal refrigerators was well covered, a tour which also introduced the brand’s fresh strategic marketing direction complete with a new tagline, an acronym: “Optimum Performance with Amazing Looks” (OPAL). 

Presenters Ray Hughes, Rosalie Davison, Kathy Dunn and Peter Tinholt reckoned the Opal series was “all white”… Rosalie was Marketing Manager at the time, a position she held for 12 years before a 3-year stint with Appliance Connexion. Her current position is Group Marketing Manager with Mammoth Insulation and Smart Energy Solutions at InZone Industries. 

Harvey Norman Australasia named Breville its Supplier of the Year for portable appliances and on hand to present Brett O’Neill (GM of Breville NZ) with his award, were Nik Papa, Electrical Proprietor of Harveys in Manukau and Heather Chowantz, Small Appliances Manager. 

Nik (photo top right) is still with Harvey Norman, as Franchisee for Chadstone (the largest Harvey Norman store in Victoria). He also oversees the operation in Victoria. Earlier this year, Heather left her Victorian position for new pursuits whilst Brett of course, still heads up Breville NZ and keeps on winning things!

October 1999’s Movers & Shakers – Karen Fry had joined PDL Industries as a Sales Representative for PDL-branded products, Goldair, Mistral, Arlec, SKC and Toshiba (cassette tapes). Unfortunately PDL’s appliance division closed shortly after and she sold PDL switching gear for a couple of years before moving on, today owning the Alrona Pet Motel in Upper Hutt. 

Retravision was on a membership drive and group Chairman Rob Duckworth (a true industry mover & shaker!) was on the record, saying how successful the Australian model had been in New Zealand, “going from strength to strength in little over a year”. 

After nearly 40 distinguished years in the trade, Rob has just sold the business to Kitchen Things and retired. He’ll take three months R&R and then see about something new. (See Sunbeam Snapshots for coverage of Rob’s leaving party!)

Rob Morris was Sales Manager for the LG Division of LM Rankine Trading and had taken on the added responsibility of Marketing Manager. Not wishing to move to Auckland when LG itself took over the New Zealand distribution, Rob is now a Territory Manager based in Wellington. 

15 years ago, Monaco Corporation was releasing a host of new small appliances under the Moulinex and Krups brand names thanks to new Product Manager, Stephanie Louie. These days those two brands are part of Groupe SEB and she is Stephanie Clark with her own consultancy business, specialising in the building industry. 

Wares remembered Ron Skinner, who had died suddenly on 31 August 1999. Known as “the grand old man of radio” Ron started out as an apprentice at Akrad Radio Corp in Waihi, in 1933. Pye took over the company and Ron later became General Manager of the factories, then a Director in 1980, the same year he retired from active service after 47 years.   



A decade ago, the Piano Man Billy Joel married for the third time, Mark Chapman (John Lennon’s assassin) was denied parole and Honor Dillon, now famously married to Dan Carter, was a new cap just named in the Black Sticks hockey squad.

Where are they now? – Breville again took the penultimate front cover of the year, leading into a double page spread promoting its “Professional grade kitchen tools for the home chef”, the 800 Class range featuring an Espresso Machine, a Commercial Juicer, a Professional Grill and a Citrus Press.

Then as now, the Wares Awards were only a few weeks away and the 2004 Finalists for Young Retailer Of the Year were: Jonathon Walker (Noel Leeming, Tory Street Wellington); Hayden Lilley (Harvey Norman, Wanganui); and Zack Trotter (Selectrix Retravision, Cambridge).

 It also listed the 2004 Retailer Of the Year Finalists: Anthony Campbell (Harvey Norman, Dunedin); Barry McMurchie (Harvey Norman, Porirua); and Greg Dennerly (Autel Kitchen Appliances).

These days, Jonathon Walker is managing Noel Leeming Lower Hutt and is in fact a Retailer of the Year Finalist in this year’s Wares Awards, while the former Autel MD, Greg Dennerly, is now running Noel Leeming’s flagship Lifestyle Appliances stores.

Bosch creates NZ subsidiary – A letter in the magazine from Robert Bosch (Australia) Pty to the New Zealand appliance dealer network, announced that BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausegeräte GmbH (Germany) would establish its own sales subsidiaries in Australia and New Zealand. BSH Home Appliances would commence operation in New Zealand, effective 1 January 2005.

 Specialised Sales & Marketing (SSM), then distributors for Goldair and Shark and agent for Conair NZ, had brought all its Australia-based sales agents across the ditch to join a two-day conference in Christchurch. 

Murray Reid, SSM’s Managing Director, said: “Our aim is to position Shark as the most innovative range of appliances on the market. Modern living demands innovative solutions and that’s where Shark really performs.” Murray is now one of three partners who own Serene Industries, marketing specialised heating products with a focus on the trade.

What’s your projection? – Epson’s full page advert in Wares 10 years ago urged readers to “Forget big screen TV – get an Epson projector from only $1,999”. That’s $2,500+ in today’s money but the EMP-S1H projector gave images up to 7 metres wide – it was “a feature packed, easy-to-set-up and use home projector at just a fraction of the cost of a large screen TV”. 

In this respect it’s interesting and easy enough to find a few big screen TVs featured in the 100% YES catalogue that same month with significant prices… For example: Panasonic 42” Projection TV ($3,999.95), Sony 42” Plasma with cabinet ($8,999.95), Panasonic 42” Plasma with cabinet ($7,999.95), Philips 30” LCD ($5,999.95) and JVC 26” LCD ($4,999.95).

Floorcare category healthy – Dyson Appliances had donated $10,000 to the global research programme on asthma and allergies in children. At the time, Brett Avery of Avery Robinson said his company was an ongoing partner of the Foundation and that during April & May, $5 from every Dyson sale made here went towards the donation. 

I asked Mark Robinson for an update today: “Dyson New Zealand has continued their long-term partnership with The Asthma Foundation, supporting the Sensitive Choice programme since its launch in 2005. Sensitive Choice educates New Zealanders about the importance of managing their asthma by identifying products and services that are asthma and allergy-friendly, and that could benefit people with asthma and respiratory conditions. Dyson’s floor care range features the Sensitive Choice butterfly symbol on its packaging.”

 “Deep cleaning introduced to New Zealand” heralded the arrival of Bissell “deep cleaning appliances and solutions” into New Zealand via Parex Plumbing. Derek Beckett was Parex’s Marketing Manager at the time. These days he is General Manager at Instrumatics in Auckland which has been supplying quality field instrumentation to the process industry for more than three decades. 

Retailers up the ante – 10 years ago there had been considerable changes in the Betta Electrical membership and General Manager Warren Brewin was fired up about the group’s “New Generation” concept. “The exciting new generation-two store plans are progressing well,” he said, “with designers finalising the colour concepts and layouts in conjunction with Martins (Hamilton) and Tharcold (Wellington).”

JVC was sponsoring Wares’ Retailer of the Month programme and Chris Fenn Appliances in Gisborne took out the honours. Dean Middleton managed the shop and he was up-beat on the position held by the independent business in the face of severe pricing competition from ‘the big boys’. “Bring it on!” was his attitude. “Our slogan is ‘Why support Auckland-based chain stores’. We use it across radio and newspaper advertising and it works really well for us.” 

Founded in 1946 by Bruce Fenn and expanded by his son Chris, this business is today a flag bearer for the independent brigade. Now a mega operation of some 1,800m2 across an entire block, Fenns Indoor Outdoor Kitchen Laundry is owned by a third generation Fenn in Paul, along with Dean Middleton, and specialises in mid- to top end whiteware (no brown goods) as a Betta Electrical outlet. There is also a huge outdoor furniture department, a showroom for kitchen and lounge furniture, a Beds R Us franchise and a La-Z-Boy Gallery.

The 2004 Appliance Connexion conference in Fiji received extensive coverage with Heathcote Appliances winning the 100% YES Store of the Year award, with LV Martin & Son on top in the Unidentified category. 

Retravision’s national conference in Auckland was also well documented and here, Dimocks of Stratford, Selectrix of Cambridge and Meikles of Whakatane (now part of Smiths City) won the three store categories with Meikles Retravision taking out the Overall Retailer of the Year award. 

A life on the ocean wave? – In October 2004, former long-time appliance retail identity and Appliance Guild Board Member Ralph Roberts was inducted into the Enterprise North Shore Business Hall of Fame. 

Ralph (MBE and a JP) was Managing Director of 100% YES Roberts Electrical in Takapuna and, apart from having represented New Zealand at three Olympic Games in yachting, was Yachting Manager at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and Chef de Mission of the Kiwi team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. 

Ralph closed his shop after a second arson in 2006 and up to Christmas last year, was active as an international yachting judge, saying a highlight was being appointed Chief Judge at the 2012 Paralympics in London.

Movers & shakers 2004-style – At BDT Michael Long was a new Account/Territory Manager working out of head office, covering Wellington, Nelson/Blenheim and Hawkes Bay; these days he works as a Car Sales Consultant in Melbourne. 

Rochelle Boylan had joined Remington as a Territory Manager along with Amanda Gore (previously at Philips), who took up the position of National Key Accounts Manager. Amanda was replacing Cliff Carr who had moved to HWI (Breville, Kambrook etc) and is now Amanda Carr, General Manager at Spectrum Brands. Rochelle, after going back to uni and achieving a BHSc with distinction, is Daily Operations Advisor for Resident Medical Officers at Auckland DHB. Cliff Carr is of course now at Sunbeam.

10 years ago, Catherine Kernahan became New Zealand Marketing Manager at Fisher & Paykel. As Catherine Woodley, she is now Senior Brand Manager at Coca-Cola Oceania. 

Blair Workman was appointed Business Development Manager for Nilfisk-Advance with overall responsibility for this country and a primary focus on the commercial & industrial sectors. Blair now lives in Taupo, having joined his dad’s businesses, Great Lake Transport & Barson Logistics, as a Director. 

Anjna Patel assumed the role of Marketing Services Manager at Epson before having a five-year stint as Marketing Manager for the Robotics Division of Epson USA. On returning to New Zealand she joined Orcon and, as Anjna Lal, is now preparing for maternity leave. 

10 years ago, Candice Brackenridge was a new member of the Customer Services team at Salton and is now Claims Executive with Samsung Electronics. 

A decade ago Wares paid tribute to Rudolf Miele who died aged 74 after a short illness. Rudolf was a grandson of Miele company founder, Carl Miele, and had entered the company in 1953 becoming a Managing Partner from 1960. He worked for the company until the very end, helping it reach its world standing as a premium manufacturer of domestic appliances.  

 Well, that’s another nostalgia trip done and no doubt there were some familiar names, brands and events you recognised. In December, as we roll back the years we will be revisiting the Retravision Trade Fairs and see what Geoff Lawes, Harold Shepherd, Ted Holland, Michelle Morresey and others were up to back in the day.

share this