Rolling back the years – December 1996-2006

By Merv Robertson December 16, 2016 Rolling back the years

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

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


On 3 December 20 years ago, Motorola introduced its StarTAC Wearable Cellular Telephone, the world’s smallest and lightest mobile phone to date and on the 20th, Yasser Arafat was re-elected President of the Palestinian Authority. That was also the month Lee Germon’s New Zealand Black Caps touring Pakistan lost the ODI series 1-2.


No such thing as “future-proofed” – Melco used the front cover of Wares 20 years ago to put over the key message that its Mitsubishi Black Diamond range needed just one remote to control the TV, VCR and Sky TV. Again, the term “future-proofing” was used which is a bit of a hobby-horse for me.

Future proofing can only ever be a short term reality, not a panacea for longevity. In fact this was (obliquely) highlighted in the magazine’s editorial with a quote from a newspaper article which said of television: “A vigorous young nation is degraded by an addiction to this tawdry and stupefying machine.”

The Editorial went on to predict that “The future will see a true combination of all electrical products within the home, to provide a living environment we can control, adjust and activate – without even being there.”


Subtly Swedish – Award Appliance Group had a handy portfolio of brand names and in this issue promoted the new ASKO fully integrated dishwasher. This model blended in so well with the kitchen bench that you couldn’t actually see it when the door was closed, not even the controls.

66 years since its first whiteware product (a refrigerator), ASKO is now of course part of the Applico stable and the brand has just been relaunched here (see elsewhere in this magazine for more on this).


Turn around bright eyes – Ah yes, I like the headline of the next excerpt: “Nilfisk makes a marketplace turnaround”. The new team for 1996, only in place since June, had performed really well to clear a large quantity of old models in advance of the new GM300 Series arriving, albeit six months behind the rest of the world.

Of this new Nilfisk team, Wellington-based Paul O’Regan was on hand at Mason Appliances’ “Drive Away a Dream” promotion while in Auckland Vanessa Gola presented a Nilfisk Award for Excellence to Mark Campbell and Sandy Kemp of Mark Campbell Appliances.

As we know, Paul plies his skills for De’Longhi these days and Vanessa is at packaging company Zedpac. Sandy has retired and Mark describes his life as “buggering about, playing a bit of golf and keeping my hand in with some contracting, consulting and mentoring.”

To bring the story right up to date, we are hearing of some big changes afoot at Nilfisk for 2017 – keep your eyes peeled!


Cross sector fertilisation – The whiteware industry getting involved with the FMCG sector isn’t new. In fact this month 20 years ago, Simpson Appliances had got involved with Woolworths’ South Island supermarkets in the launch of some new ultra-thin nappies. Nicola Legge, Trade Marketing Manager at Simpson, drew the lucky winner, a Mrs Lamers of Christchurch. These days Nicola is Research Director, Head of Public Affairs NZ at leading market research company, Ipsos.


“By gum, it’s a Dimplex” – One of our industry’s success stories has been Robinson Industries, founded by Sir Noel Robinson (“Where are they now” December 2010). In its heyday, Robinson’s stable boasted market leading brands like Krups, Rotec, Robinhood, Moulinex and Dimplex.

Talking of which, does anyone remember old Percy the Dimplex man? Percy epitomised the elderly Englishman complete with cloth cap, settling in for a cold winter evening with his Dimplex heater keeping him warm whilst he enjoyed a quiet ale. “By gum, it’s a Dimplex,” he would say and here he was again in 1996, all ready for a new campaign.


Does brand matter in TVs? – How things change in the TV world. Remember when Philips dominated, along with Pye back in the K9 days? Well, in October 1996 GfK reported that Sony was the leading brand with a 16% market share.

Whilst this paled when compared to the estimated combined share of Philips and Pye (they’d claim over 50% in the early years of colour), it was an impressive number considering the proliferation of brands available.

These days I’m told that by volume, a massive 39% of all TV sales fall into the category of trade/house/exclusive (i.e. own brand). Will this figure rise and does it matter? Just asking... In value it’s a different story though with just 18% being trade or exclusive models.

Cooking on gas – For years, two of the leading three brands of electric stoves (Shacklock and Champion) were manufactured in Dunedin. Fisher & Paykel first became involved with Shacklock in the 1950s, eventually buying the company in 1981 and in Wares 20 years ago, a radical departure from tradition was announced with the arrival of Shacklock gas ovens.

Chris Staynes was F&P’s General Manager of the range and dishwasher division at the time and he cited changing lifestyles in New Zealand plus demand from the Australian market as motivating factors.

He commented at the time: “More New Zealanders are wanting to cook with gas because of convenience and a move towards wok cookery.”

Congratulations go to Chris on his recent re-election to Dunedin City Council, while Project Marketing Manager at the time, Joanne Shepherd, is Marketing Manager at Fletcher Living in Auckland.


Retravision’s takes stock at Travelodge – 20 years ago this month Wares was reporting on the conferences of the three independent co-op retailers, starting with Retravision’s Conference & Trade Fair at Auckland Airport Travelodge.

At the outset, the group’s head office team (the late Wayne Burton who was Retravision Franchise Manager for RTS, Leighton Cox who was Trade Group Manager and Marketing Services Manager Wendy Morris), gave a detailed analysis of the current situation for the assembled delegates, including some data on Retravision’s standing in the marketplace and then some visions for the future.

Wayne revealed that the business was well on track to meet budget and was confident of future growth through initiatives to recruit new franchisees in strategic geographical locations.

Leighton’s main thrust was the importance of member support for Retravision’s key product categories and product ranges. (That’s a tune we still hear played at conferences to this day, by the way!)

20 years on, Leighton is retired and Wendy runs her own company Artemon, specialising in residential interior design.


Betta business everybody! – Retravision’s competitors both travelled to the Gold Coast in 1996. Betta Electrical was “Taking care of Business” at the Royal Pines Resort, a trans-Tasman event boasting 700+ delegates.

Kiwi suppliers were guests of Betta NZ for a show and dinner at Jupiter’s Casino, where Bevan Baker accepted Supplier of the Year on behalf of Southcorp Appliances. New Lynn’s Wingate Betta Electrical won the Member of the Year trophy and General Manager Warren Brewin somehow managed to burgle the golf.

At the AGM, the retirement of Tokoroa’s Jack Wallis was acknowledged as he moved from our industry in favour of a career in real estate in Rotorua.

Bevan is now National Sales Manager at Eurotech Design and Warren is CEO at Lifestyle Retail Group.


100% takes on the big boys – The 1996 100% Your Electric Store conference was held at Sea World Nara Resort with the theme of “Taking on the Big Boys”. The late Robin Scragg was Chairman: “Our convention theme is a humorous description of a serious role, which is to compete effectively in a market dominated by chains and mass merchandisers.”

He went on to emphasise that the convention was all about people and building a powerful brand. “Look around you,” he said, “you are among friends.”

“Motivational speaker extraordinaire” Amanda Gore (no, not that one!), delivered a two hour plus keynote which both captivated her audience and titillated the assembled worthies with a section she called “brain sex”, about what each gender actually hears when the other speaks.

[Ed – Sounds like a perfect parallel for many retailer-supplier relationships…]


Luck has nothing to do with it! – No new appointments were revealed as Xmas approached 20 years ago, but there was a profile on Dennis O’Brien, aka “the Silver Fox” who headed up Rice’s, the iconic Invercargill appliance group (formally the family business, Rice Refrigeration).

Dennis was a legend in his time, a truly dynamic, hardworking and hard living retailer who pioneered the “expo phenomenon” which swept the independent marketplace in the 1980s and 1990s.

Dennis reminisced recently: “You know, we ran 25 of those expos and, in little old Invercargill, we grew them to in excess of three million dollars over a weekend. We were turning suppliers away!”

30 years earlier, Dennis had joined Rice’s in 1966 as a refrigeration apprentice before moving to Vancouver as an 18 year-old to join Kelvinator. That didn’t work out so well due to a major national strike so he accepted a door-to-door commission-only job with Eatons, a large department store.

A little over two years later he was back with Rice’s in sales, eventually becoming Sales Manager. Then, in the early 1970s, he and company accountant Alan Baxter bought the business. Rice’s was bought by Smiths City in 1999, the name changing to Rices Powerstore.

Someone with an axe to grind once described Dennis O’Brien’s success as “lucky”. Dennis responded with: “The funny thing is the harder I work, the luckier I get!”

Both Dennis and Alan retired from the industry and both are still living in Invercargill where Dennis continues to manage his extensive portfolio of residential rental properties.



Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring, the first of his Lord of the Rings series, premiered in London on 10 December 2001. Just three days later, A Beautiful Mind with Russell Crowe in the lead role opened in Los Angeles.

On the home front, not only we Kiwis, but sports fans, yachties especially, were shattered to hear that Sir Peter Blake had been murdered by pirates while monitoring environment change on the Amazon River.

It was the 5th of December and Sir Peter was just 53.


Looking ahead to 2002 – Having held its Australasian conference in Auckland – a move that seen as a warning shot to established Kiwi businesses – Harvey Norman was nominated as Wares’ “Mover of the Year” with new stores in Dunedin and Palmerston North bringing the total number of outlets to seven and with New Plymouth on the horizon.

Reviewing the independent sector 15 years ago, we noted that “The real players with the serious market shares are the three independent groups – Retravision, 100% YES and Betta. All power to them, they are making more than a good fist of it.” Can we say the same today?

Appliance Connexion with 72 shops under the 100% YES banner and 45 unidentified were voted Wares’ “Top of the Independent Pops” with the signing of Leader & Watt seen as a coup.

Briscoes, The Warehouse and e-retailing (the “digital decade”was yet to come!) were all mentioned in despatches.


Video wars – Like Panasonic, Philips was also discussing something new in DVD recorders and there we saw Errol McKenzie, Scott Wright and Jane Waddel gathered around the new DVDVR 1000.

These days, Errol and his wife Sarah have a research company called Futurescape Global and he is a Director of MMD NZ, which markets Philips monitors. Scott is Business Development Director at Lion Breweries and Jane founded her own marketing consultancy, Marketing Depot eight years ago.


Ranging around the world – Robinson Industries was in the news, this time on the export front. Managing Director Steve Bootten was shown being presented with a Trade New Zealand Export Commendation by Fran Wilde, TNZ Chief Executive.

Although this recognition was primarily for the export of Robinhood rangehoods to Australia, it was noted that the Asian market was also being developed in this category and laundry tub exports into Australia were increasing.

Today, Steve owns Bootten Consultants in Auckland and is a Director of several organisations, both commercial and not for profit.


15 years is a long, long time – Has there been a more dramatic technological evolution than the telephone? Some of us can remember the first cellphones, the famous NEC “brick”, the emergence of Nokia and phones which could even take photos.

Think about phones today and have a giggle at the following comment from Philips “just” 15 years ago: “One other area of growth predicted by Philips in New Zealand is the mobile phone handset market, which is about to enter into the consumer electronics arena”.

Well, it looks like that prediction came to fruition, big time!


What’s new in whiteware? – Electrolux was calling the transition of Email Appliances into Electrolux Home Products 2001’s “most notable change for the whiteware industry”. The change it seems, was pretty straightforward but the company saw the impact being substantial, not only on the business, but on the industry as a whole.

Most noteworthy was that although Simpson and Westinghouse were still very much in the picture, 2002 would see the Electrolux brand emerge with a premium range of major appliances.

Expansion was also in the wind at Bosch. In the absence of new products in 2001, Bosch had concentrated on consolidating and developing its distribution network with increased market share rewarding these efforts.

Looking to 2002 there would be further enhancement of the distribution channels as well as a stronger, broader product range, especially in cooking. Small appliances had already been launched through Harvey Norman and a decision on the long term future of this category in New Zealand would be made at the end of 2002.

Leaders or what? – In retail land, the Sunbeam Award for Excellence went to Leader & Watt 100% with Brian and Peter Watt and Margaret Pedersen on hand to receive recognition from Sunbeam’s Elaine Anderson.

The subject of our very first “Retail Icon” way back in October 2009, Leader & Watt had eight stores, 65 staff and 36 vehicles in 2001 with the company operating a large electrical contracting division and an all-encompassing service department as well as being one of the country’s most prominent independent retailers.

At the time, Brian spoke about Leader & Watt’s “10 Year Club” for staff with 10 years’ service. When they formed the club there were just five members but by 2001 they numbered 35 – “a formidable team”. Indeed: four of the Club’s members had been there over 40 years, 10 over 30 and 11 could count more than 30 years’ service.

Peter now runs the company as General Manager, Brian is still on-site most days in his role as Chairman while Margaret has retired after 30 years’ service, as is Elaine.


Servicing must adapt or die – Over 200 delegates attended 2001’s service conference in Rotorua and were told that the service industry needed to “adapt to the pace of change”. This could well have applied to every gathering since, the difference being that the speed of change now is even more jaw-dropping than it was 15 years ago.

The then Executive Director of the Appliance & Electronics Industry Association, the late Dennis Amiss, stressed that one of the conference aims was to figure out how service dealers could help themselves.

Tony Kryzewski of Kaon Technologies was an entertaining and challenging contributor, while TV3’s Target presenter Ian Orchard, expert on everything from pavlova to plasma (and generally unpopular for this reason around the servicing attendees), also made a brief appearance.


Who was moving & shaking? – December 2001’s movers & shakers were led off by our own Simon Little. Although, it must be said, Simon looked like he was barely out of short pants, he had in fact just been named Sales Executive of the Year Award at the 2001 New Zealand Magazine Awards.

Bosch National Sales Manager, Paul Ravlich, had been promoted to the Melbourne-based position of Divisional Manager Bosch Household Appliances and Nicole Jones joined Nilfisk-Advance as Northern Region Account Manager.

Ash Johns became a Philips Product Manager looking after PC peripherals, blank media and accessories while Bernadette Archibald rounded things off with her announcement as Whirlpool’s Managing Director for Oceania.

Fast forward to 2016 and we all know Simon as Publisher of Wares, Paul has dual roles with Siemens in Sydney as Regional Manager for New South Wales and CEO of New Zealand and Nicole is an Administrator with Dairy on Demand in the FMCG sector.

Ash owns Strand Media, a company delivering innovative digital marketing solutions and, on leaving Whirlpool, Bernadette founded Executive Travel Advantage and is based in Singapore.



The results of New Zealand’s 2006 census were released on 6 December and we learned that our population had increased by almost 8% from the previous exercise five years prior, to 4,027,927.

Jeb Bush was Governor of Florida at the time and had just suspended executions following a “flawed death by lethal injection”. Convicted killer Angel Diaz had taken 34 minutes to die and Bush said he needed to be sure that the method used did not constitute “cruel and unusual punishment”.

Beyonce Knowles – the word “incomparable” comes to mind – had already achieved her 4th number one selling single in the US 10 years ago. The song was Irreplaceable and of course she was the big winner at this year’s VMA Awards back in August.


Can I get an extension? – 10 years ago, Aon Warranty Group was telling us: “There’s BIG money in extended warranties”. Ross Coutts was Aon Warranty Group’s National Sales Manager: “Empowering staff to be in control of their own remuneration is a driving force in their productive value,” he said at the time.

Aon sold its warranty business to The Warranty Group globally 17 years ago but maintained the Aon name here for some time.

Ross, following 22 years with Sanyo, was Warranty Group’s New Zealand Manager from day one and he tells me they have Protection Plan product offerings across the appliance and CE industry as well as IT and furniture.


BDT’s quarter century – BDT described 2006 as a milestone year, marking 25 years of success in the industry and also for the record sales of Mitsubishi heat pumps and looking forward to 2007 for further significant growth.

BDT’s Marketing Manager back then was Trish Stenzel who later took a break from the industry and spent 5½ successful years in Australia as a fashion designer with her own brand before returning to BDT two years ago – in her original role as Marketing Manager.


It’s about the people – It was no surprise to see Direct Imports represented back then, TEAC was DI’s cornerstone brand for 35 years at the time but it also represented Binatone, iDECT, One for All, Goodmans and Sagem. But it wasn’t all about the brands.

Direct Imports Senior Manager at the time, Mark Anderson, now in Australia, observed: “As a small player we have to have a point of difference and we emphasise the strength of our people.” He went on to add: “We’ll be at your store every three weeks, reinforcing the importance of personal contact.”


Another kind of P&L… – Pudney & Lee, another supplier of great repute featured in 2006’s end of year issue. Founded in 1954, the family-operated company was proud to have been adjudged category Supplier of the Year by Appliance Network, Appliance Connexion and Retravision as well as carrying off the same accolade at the Wares Awards.

In a company already with 50+ years’ track record, it was no mean feat that Cary Clark could boast 32 years’ continuous service and it was nice to see him acknowledged as he made his final rounds, saying “goodbye” to his customers before retiring at the end of 2001.

Who won what in 2006? – At the 2006 Wares Awards Wayne Robb, owner and GM of Retravision Morrinsville, had just won the Retailer of the Year Award. Following his exit from the industry in 2011, Wayne spent time on the farm but now runs Meth Test Waikato and he spends his days decontaminating affected homes, while wife Nicki is in real estate.

Young Retailer of the Year a decade ago was Phil Rees of Noel Leeming Moorhouse Avenue, which continues to be one of the highest performing stores in the country. Back then, Phil was ecstatic with his success and I’m advised he is now in Australia.

Colin Kouk was a Proprietor in Training with Harvey Norman Manukau and when he was called out to accept his Young Achiever award, he was clearly delighted and certainly surprised.

The coveted Retail Store of the Year award went to Harvey Norman Invercargill and those who remember that night will recall that Proprietor Dallas Collingwood, in his acceptance speech showed his stand-up comic skills and graphically told us what his love for the store was all about.

Colin now heads up Consumer Electronics Sales at Samsung while Dallas is still with Harvey Norman, as Electrical Proprietor at Hornby.


Movers & shakers – Four new appointments featured in the last issue of 2006. Megan Reeves was named Assistant Marketing Manager at Electrolux Home Products and Cameron Smith joined Appliance Connexion as Marketing Manager for 100% Your Electric Store.

Goldair announced that Chris Heal was on board in the role of National Sales Manager while Gary Wicks became New Zealand Country Manager for Toshiba.

Megan spent time with Fisher & Paykel but now enjoys a perfect work-life balance with an admin job at Eves Realty in Katikati, combined with the main event which is taking care of the family.

Cameron’s doing “The Good Life” thing out in the Bombays, south of Auckland (self-styled “Cowpat Assessment Officer at Smith’s Farm”), Chris is GM at CBD Goldair and Gary is New Zealand Sales Manager for The Network for Learning.


That’s another year. I wish you and yours a very happy festive season and trust that the New Year brings with it increased sales, increased margins and a very fine summer ahead.

2017 kicks off for Wares and “Rolling back the Years” in February with a look at the opening of the Wilson & Choat Appliance World in Tauranga back in 1997 (remember them?), from 2002 we’ll revisit the PRG results with Peter Halkett and from Wares February 2007, we are reminded that Auckland retail icon Hill & Stewart, had ceased to exist. See you then!  


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