Rolling back the years – August 1997-2007

By Merv Robertson August 22, 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
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Outside of Wares’ pages, August 1997 was memorable for Beatrice Faumuina going gold at the Athletics World Championships, Microsoft buying a $150 million share of financially troubled Apple and the death of Princess Diana in Paris.


Send me an Email? – 20 years ago this month, Minister of Commerce & Industry, the Hon John Luxton had just opened Email Appliances’ new Mount Wellington premises.

The 150 invited guests heard Email General Manager, David Haslett, say that, in spite of the restrictive whiteware retailing found in New Zealand and pressure from international brands, the company had seen a 16% increase.

Email Marketing Manager, John Henley, Nicola Legge, Marketing Manager Communications, and Scott Housley, the group’s Assistant Marketing Manager, were also in our news with the release of new Simpson and Westinghouse cookware ranges.

David is President and CEO of CQMS Razer (a world leader in the design and manufacture of large mining equipment) in Sydney as is John Henley as Electrolux’s Home Comfort Category Manager (AC & hot water).

Nicola is Research Director at market research company Ipsos, while Scott is also in Sydney, as Global Head of Product Marketing & Commercialisation with Cochlear which designs, manufactures and supplies devices for the medical profession.


Whither Whirlpool? – By 1997 Whirlpool was making great progress in the NZ market, particularly with its “flagship” microwaves.

Calvin Sandford, recently installed 20 years ago as Whirlpool’s National Field Sales Manager, these days uses his skills, honed from many years in our industry to impart knowledge and advice to owners of small and medium-sized businesses with his own company, ActionCOACH (

Ready to rock & roll! – Melco never held back when it came to new product releases back in the day and the launch of new Aiwa audio systems at Revolver Recording Studios in Epsom, Auckland was no exception.

And, as you can see from the photo, Andrew Hendriks, the late Ken Lilley and Peter Monk were ready to rock and roll!

Andrew these days has his own building business in the Wellington region and Peter is Business Manager at Ata Rangi Vineyard as well as Chairman of annual premier wine, food & music festival, Toast Martinborough.


Pass the ball! – Sport has always been heavily reliant on sponsorship to stay afloat, even 20 years ago and especially at grassroots level and Fisher & Paykel has shown plenty of goodwill in this regard over time.

Back in 1997 it was an extension of F&P’s involvement in netball which caught our eye, this time through the dealer network.

Electricity Ashburton and Sales & Service Manager Barry Bruce for example had sponsored a full time coach for the Mid Canterbury Netball Union season.

Up in Masterton, John Heginbotham and Newbolds were supplying the Wairarapa Association with balls and pumps, as well as sundry support items to help in the office.

These days, Barry and Sue Bruce are in Wanaka, their main focus being Wanaka Rentacar.

John says he still calls the shots at 1OO% Newbolds in Masterton but son Mark (once again among the Finalists of the Wares Awards) may be nibbling at his heels!


Honky Chateau – Betta Electrical’s 1997 conference was at the Grand Chateau (now Chateau Tongariro Hotel).

Chairman Graeme Wingate reminded delegates of the disciplines required to keep Betta Electrical on the straight and narrow as “the most effective appliance group in the industry” while GM Warren Brewin detailed the group’s focus for the year ahead.

No doubt there was a drum roll as Betta’s biggest ever consumer promotion was unveiled – a “Hawaiian mid-Winter Escape” in which the major prize was a Hawaiian adventure for two.

Graeme sold his business in 2006 and, with wife Mary, did some travelling before retiring to Orewa. He is now Patron of the New Zealand Offshore Powerboat Association and plays golf most weeks.

Warren is CEO of Lifestyle Retail Group catering to the equine industry.

Goodbye to the Guild? – The Electronic Appliance Guild had been at Raffles in Singapore for a conference described as an “industry watershed”.

Retiring President Trevor Douthett admitted as much in his opening address, asking: “How relevant is the Guild? How relevant is its current direction? What can be done about it? Does the industry need a non-partisan body?”

These were thought-provoking and far reaching questions and the consensus in the end was that the survival and growth of the Guild was very important.

Having said that, just a year later, the Electronic Appliance Guild and the Electronic Technology Services Association had been amalgamated into the Electro-Technology Association (ETA). 

Well-known retailer Baby City is now Trevor’s baby and at that AGM 20 years back, he was replaced as President by Rick Graham of Radfords in Wellington.

Rick has retired after a busy time since Radfords closed its stores and became an investment company. He developed Easi-Yo Yoghurt in the UK, came back and did a stint with Noel Leeming and more recently was Marketing & Sales Manager for Generator Central in Palmerston North.


Movers & shakers – 20 years ago, Roger Finn was appointed CEO at Philips after four years heading up the French product group Outdoor Lighting. Also at Philips, former Product Manager Personal Care, Brett McMeekin, became Group Product Manager for all Domestic Appliances, replacing Nick Perry, who was heading overseas.

Nowadays Roger is a director and shareholder of half a dozen private companies, Brett is National Events Manager with Fairfax Media and Nick is back here as Business Manager for Philips Personal Health.

Mark Saunders was promoted by Akai from Key Account Executive to National Sales Manager and Calvin Sandford was appointed Whirlpool’s National Field Sales Manager. It was also announced that Ross Kirkland was leaving Sanyo to take up the position of General Manager Operations with the Auckland retail chain Hill & Stewart.

These days, Mark is Pacific Region Marketing Manager at Saint-Gobain Abrasives in Melbourne.



In August 2002, the Manchester Commonwealth Games wound up with New Zealand winning 11 Gold medals, 13 Silver and 21 Bronze. Cyclist Sarah Ulmer was our flagbearer for the opening ceremony and weightlifter Nigel Avery did the honours at the closing celebrations.


Time capsule – In 2002, Philips Wares reported on Philips’ 75th jubilee and featured a photograph of then CEO Errol McKenzie presenting a cheque for $75,000 to CureKids, a fine charity supported by Philips for more than 2½ decades.

At the celebratory dinner there was a lot of interest around the opening of a time capsule which had been laid down in 1982 at the official opening of Philips Tower (part of the newly constructed Britannic House in Wellington).

As part of this event, a new Time Capsule was laid down, destined to be opened at the centenary celebrations in 2027 – diarise the date, someone!


How about it, HWI? – In August 2002 Wares announced a new distributor for New Zealand. Housewares International (HWI) had acquired Breville and HWI New Zealand was open for business in new East Tamaki premises.

Two divisions were formed with HWI Electrical controlling Breville, Kambrook and Ronson portable appliances as well as having the exclusive distributorship of Philips domestic appliances and personal care products.

HWI Housewares had several brands, Liefhart, Soehnle and Marinex among others.

Brett O’Neill was General Manager of the new identity, which would “focus on its core competencies to further increase its market share of portable appliances and gains in the homewares category.”

Monitoring Samsung – Having represented Samsung in NZ since 1993, Radiola and Sales Manager Communications, John Sims, were talking up Samsung LCD monitors.

When the Samsung IT business was transferred to Ingram Micro around 2004, John chose a different path, later working at Canon before opting for a lifestyle change and the position of Retail & Golf Services Manager at Remuera Golf Club, where he remains today.


It’s people that sell – In August 2002 Harvey Norman Wairau Park was carrying the flag as the inaugural JVC Retailer of the Month.

JVC’s National Category Manager, Chris de Wit, presented the award to Roger Flegg, who was the North Shore Proprietor back then.

Roger was adamant that it was the quality of his staff which was key to success saying: “People buy people, then they buy products.”

15 years on, Chris is MD at Endurance Agencies, and Roger, most recently Harvey Norman Electrical Franchisee in Cairns, announced his retirement just last month.

Movers & shakers – Co-founder with Sir Woolf Fisher of Fisher & Paykel, Maurice Paykel died on 19 June 2002, aged 88, and his career was described in a Wares obituary.

Much of our tribute was taken from the eulogy delivered at the funeral by former F&P Managing Director, the late Sir Don Rowlands, who said: “Maurice was a unique, individual man who contributed well above the normal call of duty to his family, to his fellow citizens and to his country.”

At Parex Industries, Paolo Albertoni was announced as the new Australasian CEO, having spent five years in Italy as Export Sales Director for De’Longhi, responsible for the American and English markets. Now he’s CEO of De’Longhi Australasia.

15 years ago, William Webster had just been installed as General Manager at Electrolux Home Products after 15 years with the company. He had been Ops Manager as well as a Manager of the Christchurch cooking plant (formerly the home of Atlas) in the early 1990s. William is now a management consultant.



On 4 August 10 years ago, the Phoenix spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral towards Mars, the mission being to study the red planet’s North Pole. It touched Mars’ soil for the first time on 31 May the following year.


Pana, plasma and Cellnet – 10 years ago, Panasonic went to the masses to promote its new Generation 10 Viera plasmas, by displaying firstly at Auckland Airport and then in Wellington. The showstopper was a 103-inch plasma display, the largest panel in the world. Sadly Panasonic no longer makes plasma displays.

Also on the technology front, August 2007 saw the merger of Cellect, IT Wholesale and CDW into Cellnet and the company launched its long-awaited WebCell e-commerce platform

Dave Clark was Cellnet’s Marketing Manager back then and he remains at Cellnet today, as New Zealand Director.


“Cool” design – Arctic Skin, a cooling vest designed to be worn by athletes, won 2007’s Dyson Product Design Award and its creator, young designer Stephen Smith, was presented with his award by Brett Avery and Mark Robinson of Avery Robinson at a ceremony held in Auckland.

The desired outcome, getting young designers recognised, was achieved when Stephen was hired by Dyson in the UK to work in its design team.

One of his projects as part of that team was the revolutionary Airblade hand dryer and today he is one of Dyson’s senior designers based in Malmesbury England!

Mark took over full control and ownership of Avery Robinson in 2014 and Brett now lives in Surrey where he is Managing Director of Farplants, the largest wholesale supplier of outdoor plants in the UK.

The company is quietly celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, having been incorporated in June 1997 and moving New Zealand’s first Dyson vacuum cleaners into the market two months later.

Good corporate citizens – 10 years ago, Goldair and Uniden were good corporate citizens (as of course they still are). The Sallies do great work across the country but of course require the goodwill of Kiwis to help keep them afloat and Goldair came to the party 10 years back by donating tens of queen sized electric blankets and oil column heaters to the cause.

Dave Andrew, these days GM of Mike Greer Homes in Tauranga, was Goldair’s National Marketing Manager back in the day.

Meanwhile, Uniden’s charity of choice was the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation. A Uniden Pink Phone promotion was supported so well that GM Ross Kirkland was able to present the Foundation with a cheque for $10,000, the result of a $5 donation for each phone sold.


Off the wall – In a major Pudney & Lee sales promotion, Paul Howard of Harvey Norman Dunedin found himself the winner! Off he went on a five-day trip to Phoenix Arizona where he visited Omnimount and drove a Mustang racing car.

Paul was joined by Martin Heathcote of Heathcote Appliances who was a lucky draw winner and David Tait, Pudney & Lee’s Christchurch-based Sales Representative along with his wife, Carol.

Paul is still a Harvey Norman Prop, at Northwood in Christchurch, Martin is still co-Managing Director at Heathcote’s and David & Carol retired to Akaroa.


If you got, flaunt it – Still a decade back, Samsung had just welcomed 350 dignitaries, trade partners and business customers to a spectacular showcase entitled “The Art of Samsung”. Held at Auckland’s Aotea Centre, the show presented Samsung’s entire New Zealand product range.

With no less a name than SJ Park, now Samsung’s global President, attending the 2007 event, Samsung NZ’s GM Marketing back then was Jean-Philippe Diel. These days, Jean-Philippe has his own marketing agency called The Ripple Hub (


Soaking up the indies? – Aussies were in the news again with the announcement that Narta, Australia’s largest independent buying group, was “in the throes of absorbing a significant portion of the New Zealand independent market in appliances and consumer electronics.”

Described as the industry’s worst kept secret, Appliance Connexion had joined JB Hi-Fi, Hill & Stewart, Powerstore, Smiths City and Autel Appliances as members of Narta.

Today, at this point Narta NZ’s members are Appliance Connexion, Appliance Shed, DTR, Farmers, JB Hi-Fi, Smiths City Group, Heathcote Appliances and Applianceplus.

Peter, Paul and Powerstore – Our August 2007 “Focus on Retail” profile featured Powerstore Timaru which had recently moved into a 500m2 purpose-build store.

Introducing the new premises to Wares, Manager Peter Thornley pointed out that an area in the middle of the shop was set aside to display the latest specials with the top 12 deals always clearly visible to the customers.

Prior to the construction of this new site, Powerstore General Manager, Craig Balfour, and Senior Product Manager, Paul Tonkin, made a trip to the US looking for ideas and styles which would take Powerstore into the future. “We wanted it to be different, stylish but customer friendly,” Craig said at the time.

Pictured is the Timaru team (L-R): Alisha Mclusty; Megan Pearce; Peter Thornley; and Susan Hopkinson.

Peter and Susan went on to marry (each other), with Susan now working in Admin at Noel Leeming Timaru while Peter is Assistant Manager at Warehouse Stationery.

Megan is Megan Colville with her own business and Alisha is Alisha Norton, working at Farmers. Craig is Southern Regional Manager for Smiths City Group and Paul is a Category Manager, also at Smiths.

The Timaru store closed in 2015, as did Nelson, leaving just the two Powerstores in Christchurch which have now also closed.


Movers & shakers – Ten years ago, a raft of new appointments was led off by Wares’ very own Karen Condon who brought a wealth of print advertising experience to the team, replacing Sharon Brooksmith.

Outside these pages, Mike Hodgson was appointed Field Sales Manager at HWI and he would spend a significant time in the field with Sales Representatives, one of whom was Hayley Villis who was switching from her role as Executive Assistant to MD, Brett O’Neill.

Karen still plies her trade as Account Manager with Wares and Sharon (now Sharon Exley) loves Melbourne where she is Business Development Manager for Midway Print Solutions.

Today, Mike Hodgson is Retail Account Manager at umbrella specialist Peros, Hayley had some years out of the industry being a full time mum but is now part time at Sunbeam as Sales & Marketing Co-ordinator.

In August 2007, Dave Wenham had been with Monaco Corporation for 17 years, the last seven as MD, but he was moving on and had accepted the Chief Executive role at Glen Dimplex Australasia, a position he still holds.

Brenda Jones was well known from her time at Philips and Hagemeyer and in 2007 returned to our industry when she joined Nilfisk-Advance as an Account Manager, replacing her daughter Nicole Bult, who was going on maternity leave.

Brenda, after a break enjoying the great outdoors, is now at Torque Digital, a West Auckland printing company, while Nicole is working part time as an Administrator with Dairy on Demand in the FMCG sector.

10 years back, Bronwen Haines was Sunbeam’s new Financial Controller following five years working in finance at Noel Leeming and Peter Duffin, after 20 years’ industry experience, teamed up with Direct Imports as a Sales Representative responsible for the South Island.

Today, Bronwen is Finance & Administration Manager at Tasman Cargo Airlines in Auckland and Peter maintains his own sales agency business, PD Sales, across the electrical wholesale and hardware/DIY sectors.

“Putting it right” – Last, but very much not least, in August 2007, Wares noted the passing of Alan Martin, one the country’s pre-eminent retail figures, who had died on 30 May, aged 81.

His father, Leo Vincent Martin, had founded LV Martin at 224 Lambton Quay Wellington in 1934.

Just three years old at the time, Alan would eventually join his dad in the business before a family disagreement saw the youngster walk out in 1954 and open his own store in opposition, at 45 Courtenay Place.

This is when, after Leo allowed Alan to use his name, LV Martin & Son came to being, a name which was to become legendary in our land.

Leo’s motto had been “Service before sales” and, when Alan took over the business in 1958, he amended this tenet slightly to “People first, profit second” and of course later he came up with, “If it’s not right we’ll put it right and it’s the putting right that counts”.

That promise became famous and was synonymous with the way the great man ran his company – a keen sailor, even Alan’s favourite boat was called Putting it right!

Alan Martin retired from day to day duties in 1990 and, with his health failing, the family sold LV Martin & Son in November 2004 to Smiths City, which bought an 80% shareholding, with CEO Trevor Douthett taking up the remaining 20%.

Alan was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2006 and was posthumously inducted into the Industry Hall of Fame at the 2013 Wares Awards.

Smiths City Group would rebadge the two LV Martin stores in Ngauranga Gorge and Adelaide Road as Smiths City in December 2015.


Looking forward to the October 2017 edition of this series, we’ll see what Wares was saying about Monty Knight in Kaitaia back in 1997. We’ll review the Apex Awards from 2002 and revisit the 2007 ACL conference in Fiji, an event which would be my own personal swansong in the industry…

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