Rolling back the years – October 1997-2007

By Merv Robertson November 07, 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.



The second largest cash robbery in US history took place on 4 October 1997 at the Charlotte (North Carolina) office of Loomis Fargo & Co with $17.3 million in cash taken.

Three weeks later we heard about the 1997 “mini crash” – the terminology used to describe the global stock market crash caused by an economic crisis in Asia.

The AMP Air New Zealand Open at the Auckland Golf Club was won by Greg Turner, who finished seven strokes ahead of the chasing pack, adding to his 1989 win at Paraparaumu Beach.


Ch, ch changes – Two decades ago, the Editorial was about the opening of Harvey Norman’s first store in Manukau – and suggested it would be the benchmark against which all other stores would henceforth be measured. At the same time, the Electronic Appliance Guild was restructuring into a new association which would incorporate the Electro-Technology Services Association.


Who would be Paris-bound? – The 1997 Wares Awards Finalists were well profiled, with the winners of all three categories jetting off to Paris to attend Europe’s Household Appliance Fair.

Contesting the Retailer of the Year were Bryan Lamb of Smiths City Christchurch, Braddon McConville of H&J Smith Invercargill and Nathan Miller of Appliance Centre Takapuna.

Deon Alsop of The Warehouse Glenfield, Paul Jones of Smiths City Blenheim and Scott McIsaac of Bond & Bond Napier were Young Retailer of the Year Finalists with Tony Boereboom of Next Electronics Dunedin, Neville Rapley of Rapley Electrical Hastings and Colin Woollard of Woollard Electrical Service in Hastings the Finalists in Service Person of the Year.

In the next issue we’ll "reveal" the winners and let you know their current status.

Two important debuts – “Dyson has arrived” went the headline. Yep, this month marks the 20th anniversary of the first Dyson vacuums being sold here with newly formed Avery Robinson the appointed distributor. Three models made up the initial range, the DC01 upright and two barrel machines, DC02 and DC02 Absolute, the latter incorporating a HEPA filter.

Also 20 years ago, at a Fisher & Paykel annual meeting, the revolutionary DishDrawer dishwasher was unveiled to shareholders having been previewed at Domotechnica earlier in the year.

Dreamed up, designed and made reality in-house, Gary Paykel said at the time: “DishDrawer is a world first. It is two highly efficient dishwashers in one unit, so it is hugely versatile. But it is more than that. The machine is controlled by intelligent electronics which are designed and made by our own people.”


The genesis of LG – To complete a hat-trick of major announcements in Wares 20 year past, it was revealed that the Goldstar brand had become LG, in line with the global strategy of the Korean parent company LG Electronics, founded some 50 years prior as Lucky Goldstar.

Big ups go to LG’s original NZ distributor, LM Rankine, run by Michael Park and his various teams. I know that those involved from the very early days right through to when LG took over the distribution here, are extremely proud of the position the brand now holds in New Zealand.

Michael lives in Seoul now but returns here frequently to catch up with family and friends. In Seoul he is focused on promoting New Zealand, particularly in education and culture.


60 years of PDL – We continue on this theme of milestones by recalling that in 1997, PDL was celebrating 60 years as an electrical and plastics manufacturer. The company had been founded as Plastic & Diecasting Ltd by Harry Vale, primarily to produce equipment for his plumbing and heating business.

Having joined as General Manager in 1947, Bob Stewart (below - later Sir Robertson Stewart), purchased the business for £195,000 (north of $9.5 million in today’s terms) in 1957, renaming it PDL Industries.

He would be awarded a CBE in 1970 before receiving his knighthood in 1979. Schneider Electric having acquired the PDL group in 2001, Sir Robertson died on 13 August 2007.

Hello Harvey! – Harvey Norman arrived in New Zealand in 1997 and, by the end of the year, the dynamic Aussies had two stores up and running, the first in Wairau Park on Auckland’s North Shore (photo above right) followed by a second in Manukau City.

GM Nik Papa (above right) inducted into our Industry Hall of Fame two years ago, considered the new shop to be a more typical Harvey Norman outlet than Manukau.

He added that it was not the company’s intention to create retail casualties through price-cutting but to be quality retailers providing category killers in every product range.

Today, Nik is the Electrical Franchisee at Chadstone in Victoria as well as State Manager. And coincidentally, 20 years later, the Wairau Park store is a Finalist in this year’s Wares Awards.


Movers & shakers – Two decades back, Geoff Day (photo above) had joined Sanyo as Sales & Marketing Manager Consumer Electronics, Office Products & Exclusive Distributorships after nine years at Alpine Electronics. He must have had a big business card!

Rebecca Waddell (photo also above) had also come to Sanyo from Bell South as Product Manager for appliances and office products.

Today, Geoff is a Director of Learning Works, a subsidiary of the Waikato Institute of Technology where he was CEO until he branched out on his own account in the safety industry, as a partner at Safety & Apparel Ltd (

Bex, now Rebecca Woolfall, is Marketing Manager at sKids (Safe Kids in Daily Supervision), an organisation started in 1996 by two mothers who recognised a need for structured after-school supervision for their children. sKids now operates in over 145 locations



Remember Dalvanius Prime, of Poi E fame? He died in October 2002, aged only 54, after a career that spanned 30 years.

Sadly, that month was also littered with acts of violence around the globe, the worst being the shocking terrorist double bombings in the Bali nightclub district.


Who’s at the Apex? – The third annual Apex Industry Awards, under the auspices of the Appliance & Electronics Industry Association (AEIA) was celebrated in Auckland 15 years ago.

Brett O’Neill had just been elected AEIA President with Roger Blincoe, Kevin Colley, Eddie Law, Richard Hopkins, Bryan Edwards, David Burnett, Alf Ellis, Mark Robinson, Roger Rowley and Ross Kirkland making up the Board.


Noel’s gets into sticks – In an innovative, if speculative venture back in 2002, Noel Leeming entered the furniture market, firstly with a pilot store in Manukau then at Botany Downs.

General Manager John Milford said in the magazine that almost all the furniture on offer would be locally made, with Sleepyhead a major supplier.

In its favour, the chain had expertise in big ticket retailing, a large database of existing customers and funds were available to clients through the group’s own consumer finance division, Pacific Group Finance.

By the way this project followed the arrival of specialist computer retail brand Big Byte and the acquisition of Bendon’s almost two dozen retail outlets.

These days, John is putting his considerable experience and expertise to good use as CEO at the Wellington Chamber of Commerce.

“Bags” then and now – Today, Ken Bagley and his son Ben (photo above right) own Selectrix Wanaka but 15 years ago Wares profiled “Bags” as the owner-operator of Selectrix 100% Dunedin, the JVC Retailer of the Month.

Ken did things a bit differently to his competitors and told Wares that on two recent occasions he had invited potential customers out to his own home to experience home theatre. Each of them walked away a bit lighter in the wallet...

Selectrix also had its own servicing for TV, video and whiteware as well as a car audio installation facility.

Ken Bagley started out in our industry as Administration Manager at Kelvinator House before being appointed Manager of Wrightson Appliances Dunedin in 1980.

Using his philosophy of majoring with a narrow line of suppliers and supporting them to the hilt, he increased the revenue 500% and became the South Island Manager for Wrightson‘s ahead of a management buy-out and the formation of the Selectrix group which itself was eventually sold off as standalone independents.


Independent’s day? – Appliance Connexion was “Taking Care of Business” at its 2002 conference in Fiji (photos above). 169 delegates participated in an event which, as these things are wont to do, combined serious stuff with equal measures of fun.

In his welcoming address, ACL’s Chairman Peter Drummond and GM, the late Wayne Burton, were full of the year’s achievements to the point that they believed ACL held around 25% of the total appliance market, having taken share off the national chains.

“It’s the time of the independents,” said Wayne. Then as now?

In terms of high achievers, Heathcote’s 100% was identified Retailer of the Year and LV Martin took out the unidentified honours.


Here’s to Ken – The late Ken Lilley was not just a mover & shaker. He was one of the most respected and influential people to grace our industry.

Ken had been with Melco for 16 years when, in October 2002, Wares announced that he had been appointed Managing Director.

Ken’s death in a motorcycling accident in April 2013 sent shockwaves through the industry and it’s fitting that the Young Achiever Award at the Wares Awards honours his name.



The most significant, and painful event of October 2007 was the Rugby World Cup quarter-final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

We were hot favourites and should have won, but we didn’t.

Personally, I couldn’t speak at the final whistle and went for a long walk to try and get my head together.


Breville’s three quarter century – A decade ago Breville was celebrating “75 Years of innovative design” in style. Inside the magazine there was a story on the history of Breville, which started when Bill O’Brien and Harry Norville invested £500 to launch their new Aussie company on Melbourne Cup day, 1932.

The article went on to track Breville’s evolution, including its absorption into the listed Australian Public Company, Housewares International (HWI) up to the current situation at the time of publication when over 1,400 outlets across Australasia were selling the Breville brand.


Who was a Young Retailer back then? – In October the 2007 Wares Awards were just around the corner. Up for Sales Professional of the Year were Stephen Brady of Philips, Nigel Mooney of Fujifilm and Ryan Lilley of Panasonic, plus some old relic from Nilfisk-Advance (your author, Merv Robertson!).

Peter Hill from 100% Barrell’s, Tong Kingi from Lockyers Retravision and Andrew Clark from Noel Leeming Shirley would contest Young Retailer. Finalists in Retailer of the Year were Heather Brokenshire from T&H Appliances, Evan Claxton from Harvey Norman Hamilton and Brian Stewart from Bay Betta Electrical.

Who won? Sorry to tease but you'll have to read the next issue...

Beam me up Peter – 10 years ago BDT was taking its legendary roadshow to “New Frontiers” with a Star Trek-themed presentation of Mitsubishi Electric heat pumps, using “BDT Enterprise” as the vehicle.

Captain Kirk, looking suspiciously like Group Retail Manager Kate Gibson, led the starship around the country while Mrs Spock, heavily disguised as Group Marketing Manager Trish Stenzel, highlighted the category’s stellar growth.

Scotty, better known as Peter Hutson (Technical Service Manager), took to the flight deck to outline the principal features and benefits and Managing Director Ken Lilley offered his own style of lightning bolts to the assembled “Earthlings”, otherwise known as retailers.

Trish 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, back into her old role as Marketing Manager.

Still BDT’s Marketing Manager, I had a chat with Trish recently and she recalls well that inventive release and others.

Peter is also still there, as National Training Manager and Kate is on maternity leave, following the birth of Lilly, but she’ll return, as Business Strategy Manager.


NARTA comes knocking – On the retail front, the arrival of Aussie co-operative retail group NARTA (National Association of Retail Traders of Australia) was big news.

Managing Director Kay Spencer explained that members trade as independent brands, BUT come together under the NARTA structure to gain economies of scale in purchasing products and services.

Also announced at the time was the appointment of Stephen Holmes, formerly of Fisher & Paykel and Panasonic, as New Zealand Business Manager.

Kay is now Non-Executive Chairman at Narta and Stephen is Sales & Marketing Manager at United Steel.


White gloves open doors – It was a team effort, white gloves and all, when Samsung opened its New Zealand call centre, addressing suggestions that the company’s customer service might not have been up to scratch.

White gloves were also de rigueur when the ribbon was cut to mark the launch of LG Electronics in New Zealand, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Korean giant which took over from Rankine Trading, the Wellington distributor which had represented the brand in New Zealand from the outset and worked hard to position LG as a significant player here.

Poacher turns gamekeeper – The Energy Star Focus on Retail featured Barry McMurchie and his team at the already eight year-old Harvey Norman Porirua store.

Barry had 15 years in wholesale and 10 with Sony before moving into retail because, he said: “I liked what I saw – it’s such a good, strong business model.”

Barry’s store was the chain’s first in the Wellington region and only the fifth in New Zealand following a trio in Auckland and one in Christchurch.

“We were coming into town to compete with some incredibly well known brands and strong household family names,” he recalls today. “It was an opportunity to show people how big the business was internationally.”

Barry offered high praise for his staff, saying that apart from himself and his 2IC, the 22 full time staff had about 159 years of experience between them.

These days, Barry is enjoying life in Melbourne where he is Sales Manager at Century 21 Pakenham.

I was in contact recently and he was quick to point out that his wife, Christine Quarrie, was integral in the success enjoyed at Harvey Norman and “on the team” throughout (see photo above).


ACL’s new approach – We described ACL’s conference in Fiji 10 years ago as “ground breaking”.

Fair enough – new branding was unveiled, along with new marketing, new promotional initiatives and even a new alliance – and perhaps not before time.

We said: “The sweeping changes to the retail marketplace in consumer electronics and appliances over the preceding decade had been like a body-blow to the independent network.

“Survival in the face of the growing power of the corporates and Aussie invaders in an increasingly tough competitive environment is proving difficult and some independent groups are feeling the pinch.”

As part of his keynote address, CEO Wayne Burton laid out a bold plan, the key plank being that ACL would be joining forces with the recently formed Narta NZ, a move designed to future-proof and improve buying power, be part of the biggest buying group in Australasia and along the way, become more important to key suppliers.

Marketing Manager Cameron Smith (now doing “The Good Life” thing out in the Bombays) presented the refreshed 1OO% logo and proceeded to detail the new media strategy, the highlight of which was 1OO%’s sponsorship 2007 Netball World Cup to be held in New Zealand later in the year.

Interesting to note that, a decade later, a new logo and a refreshed strategy were unveiled at this year’s ACL conference in October 2017 (for more of which see the next edition of Wares).

Simplifying servicing – The theme of the service sector’s 2002 conference was “Simply Business” and it heralded a simple new name. The rather cumbersome Appliance & Electronic Industry Association was now to be called the ElectroTechnical Association or ETA.

The keynote speaker was David Brewster, who spoke to delegates of the need to (obviously) simplify their businesses. “Simplify things for your customers,” he said. “People gravitate towards companies that make their lives easier. By becoming the ‘go-to’ player in your industry you trample the opposition.”

On the downside, it was noted that the service sector was ageing and that not enough apprentices were being trained... Sounds familiar?


Who’s been moving & shaking? – There’s plenty of movers & shakers to contemplate from October 2007, so let’s crack into it. At Philips, Meech Aspden was welcomed aboard as CEO after time as General Manager Health & Wellness with the company in Hong Kong, while Digitalblue, a niche IT and CE distributor appointed David Hurring as its South Island Business Development Manager.

Meech is now Director of Group Fitness for Pure Group International in Hong Kong whilst David is in Christchurch, working as Customer Engagement Manager/Sales Executive with Medtech Global, a software development company servicing the primary healthcare industry.

Craig Manson, currently Managing Director at Computershare in Sydney was promoted from National Sales & Marketing Manager at Canon to the position of Managing Director back in 2007.

Also back then, Andrew Cardy joined Electrolux Home Products as Strategic Business Manager. He’s now co-owner of Makeup Your Mind (, an online retail concept for beauty lovers.

Ten years ago Chris de Wit took up the role of National Sales & Marketing Manager Smart Technologies and today he’s Managing Director at Endurance Agencies.

Philips had installed a new Consumer business team comprising Warren Roach, continuing as Product Manager CTV, Ehkman Mahmud, the Business Accountant, Caroline Fountaine, newly appointed as Product Marketing Manager for Consumer Business Division, Jeremy Andrews who joined as Product Manager Entertainment Solutions, Hayley Dunn, who remained Marketing Co-ordinator and Tony White, staying on as the division’s General Manager.

Today, Warren is Marketing Services Manager at The Comfort Group (Sleepmaker, Sleepyhead, Simmons, Dunlopillo, Design Mobel and Serta bedding brands) but Ehkman has left New Zealand and for some reason gets his kicks from running marathons around the world.

Caroline is a stay-at-home mum, Jeremy is a Sales Consultant with Harcourts Four Seasons Realty in Christchurch and Hayley (Farr) is a Group Product Manager at McPherson’s Consumer Products.

Tony and his wife Robin nowadays, own the Auckland Central & Eastern Mr Rentals franchises.

Back 10 years ago, over at rival Panasonic, Ryan Lilley and Ben Watson were confirmed as Key Account Managers.

Ryan moved to Australia eight years ago. Today he’s National Key Account Executive at Electrolux Home Products in Sydney and responsible for the Harvey Norman account nationally.

Ben is European Product Manager Headphones for Bose, working out of London.


One more of these yarns and the year will be done and dusted! I’m looking forward, among other morsels from past December issues, to revisiting the opening of the Kitchen Things flagship store in Pakuranga back in 1997, reviewing the JVC Retailer of the Month award (which in December 2002 was Magness Benrow in Highland Park) and from 2007, looking back at the Wares Awards.

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