By Merv Robertson February 23, 2018 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.

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The 1998 Winter Olympics were celebrated in February 1998 in Nagano, Japan. Sadly New Zealand failed to win a medal. It was also 20 years ago this month that Elton John was knighted by the Queen.

Just this month Elton, aged 70, announced he was retiring from touring and we hope our lack of prowess in winter sports from 1998 doesn’t repeat itself…


Guild versus greed – 20 years ago this month, the editorial extolled the virtues of the Electronic Appliance Guild which was set for a name change. The Guild, under the leadership of the late Dennis Amiss, was noted for lobbying hard on behalf of its collective members in all manner of areas, not the least being the highest echelons of Government Departments and Ministries.

The current rant taken up by Dennis was greedy retail landlords, especially mall operators.


Sing a song of Sunbeams – For many years Wares ran a feature focusing on retail excellence, sponsored over time by the likes of JVC, Direct Imports and Sunbeam.

This month in 1998, we find a photo of Sunbeam Victa’s newly appointed General Manager, Roger Teague, alongside Wares’ own Bud Little as they discuss details.

Fast forward to today and Roger is on the road as Business Development Representative for Pyroclassic Fires, looking out for resellers around the country, whilst Bud maintains an avid interest in Marketplace Media.

Back in 1998, changes at Sunbeam were afoot, with the Australian parent company aiming to revitalise itself here. The Palmerston North manufacturing arm and the Auckland distribution division were split into two separate companies, allowing manufacturing to focus on producing world class products for local and international markets, while distribution was freed up to select Sunbeam and Victa products (yes, lawnmowers etc) which suited the Kiwi lifestyle.

The changes meant a better range of products with no less than 21 new offerings that summer and 23 planned for each of the following three years. Roger, formerly National Sales & Marketing Manager, became General Manager of Sunbeam Victa, heading up the distribution company with a freshly created team.

Specifically for Sunbeam, Warren Roach was Appointed Marketing Manager with Judith MacMillan filling the Sales Manager role while, for Victa, Greg Stevens became Sales & Marketing Manager. Gavin Cran was Service Manager for both brands and Andrew Tyler Finance & Operations Manager.

Today, Warren is in the furniture industry, as Group Digital Marketing Manager at The Comfort Group, Gavin would go on to have 14 years with Breville before joining Parmco as Technical Manager just over a year ago and Andrew is CFO at New Zealand Pharmaceuticals.

Unfortunately, between us we haven’t been able to locate Judith or Greg.


Excellent retailing – In related content, the inaugural winner of the Sunbeam Victa Award for Retail Excellence was Magness Benrow in Greenlane, Auckland and Roger Teague was joined by Sales Manager Judith MacMillan and Representative Helen Green in presenting the framed certificate to Tony James, (Magness Benrow Small Appliance Buyer) and John Magness, the company’s principal, then and now.

The foundations of success at Magness Benrow 20 years back were the “old fashioned concepts of service, selection and price” rather than the supposed “drag-’em-in and spit-’em-out world of technical retailing”.

Most brands were available, as were most of the variants across each product category, and John said at the time: “When a potential purchaser visits this store, they don’t need to go anywhere else. They can see it all and get price competitiveness as well.”

Helen retired in 2009 and, with husband John, set about travelling, gardening, playing Mahjong, walking and attending fitness classes. She reckons retirement life is busy, fulfilling and happy.

Tony is still Magness Benrow’s Small Appliance Buyer, in a job share capacity with Catherine Magness.

Pye for dinner – Way back in the day, Philips and Pye were fierce competitors, until 1980 when Philips took Pye over with the resultant rationalisation eventually seeing TV for both brands being manufactured in the Philips Naenae plant and all audio consolidated in Pye’s factory in Waihi.

Pye had a long and proud history dating back to when Pye UK bought Ken Wrigley’s 20 year-old AKRAD operation in 1951 and established Pye New Zealand. When black & white TV launched in our market in 1960, Pye receivers were ready to go on day one, and the same went for when colour TV launched here in 1973.

Taking into account Pye’s pocket transistors, in-car products and sophisticated hi-fi, the brand was truly a market leader in our industry. Philips closed the Waihi site in 1986.

An undoubted key to Pye’s success was the end to end career path it provided for people with flair and technical expertise.

As time passed it became a tradition that apprentices past and present would gather annually for a dinner at a Waihi pub with conditions of entry including a bow tie and a cigar at the end of festivities.

Some of the industry’s past technical luminaries graced that factory – Barry Babbage, Ian Tribble, Graham Street and the late Ron Skinner to name a few – but not forgetting Benn Foster who in fact was the excuse used for a reunion reported on in Wares February 1998.

Benn had recently been awarded the Queens Service Medal in recognition of his volunteer service to the community, both as Squadron Leader for the local Air Training Cadets (ATC) and in search and rescue.

Fast forward to 2017 and we see that Barry has retired to Welcome Bay while Ian helps out at ET Electronics which he founded and is now owned by his son, Michael.

In retirement, Streety is still involved, as Roving Reporter of the ElectroTechnical Association’s regular Insight Mail e-newsletter.

Benn, aged 77, still keeps his hand in by helping with installs and repairs at 1OO% Appliances Waihi on a part-time basis.


Yet another disc-based format – With the countless varieties of entertainment media available today on a plethora of devices, it seems crazy these days to recall the excitement surrounding the arrival of home movies on DVD.

But, back in early 1998, this at-the-time phenomenon was huge news.

It was touted, and I quote, as: “the next generation of movie-watching mania”. Philips DVD players had just hit the market and other suppliers were said to be scrambling to bring forward release dates. Roadshow Entertainment had even “leapt into the future” with the release of Evita, for example.

Explain that to the grandchildren if you can, particularly with the all-but demise of plain old DVD in favour of higher quality Blu-ray discs, not to mention streaming and VOD…


When you’re hot… – 20 years ago, Rusty Malcolm was the New Zealand Sales Manager for Australian company IXL Appliances, the category leader for three-in-one bathroom heaters and he spoke of the potential for Kiwi retailers selling IXL Tastic.

IXL had been producing domestic appliances for around 137 years and the Tastic range had been around for the last 17. Installing bathroom heaters, fans and lights had become easier and cheaper with the introduction of the IXL Smart Switch plug-in range. Smart Switch had no wires, looked and worked like a remote control and was not reliant on mains power.

IXL has in fact just relaunched the Tastic brand into NZ after some decades away but I can’t find Rusty.


Monty’s still moving & shaking – A mover & shaker in his day, Monty Knight (“Where are they now?” Wares October 2011) still is actually, but not in our industry. Monty was profiled in Wares back in the day, recognising his contribution to business and the community in and around Kaitaia.

As a kid he had shined shoes and collected beer bottles to enhance his pocket money but in the 1960s he and some mates formed a rock & roll band and this led to him promoting rock shows in the town. He then opened a record bar, progressing into cassette recorders and music tapes with such success that in 1972 he moved into bigger premises, adding first stereos and then TV.

He joined RTS as an Appliance Court retailer which enabled him to sell whiteware and in 1991 moved to a central main street location, becoming Knights Retravision when RTS secured a licence to use the Retravision brand in this country.

When asked about the state of the industry he had replied: “Those who are committed will survive. However, in today’s climate of ever reducing margins and the demand for lower prices, I’m afraid it’s the consumer who will ultimately miss out, with lower standards of service.” And that was 20 years ago!

In terms of outside interests, Monty has had a wine business, Okahu Estate, since 1984 and just last year won a Gold Medal at a major festival in San Francisco.

Then there’s Knights the Jewellers. Founded in Kaitaia by Keith Knight in 1931, Keith’s son John eventually bought the business before selling it to his brother, Monty...

Nowadays Monty’s daughter Adeline has a financial interest in Knights the Jewellers and is on a path to eventual full ownership.

At that stage it will be one business, four owners, all from one family, and Monty says: “I now only have to stay alive for another 13 years and I can attend the centenary celebrations!”

He also told me: “I have been working on Kaitaia’s Main Street for 57 years and I’m not ready to retire yet!”

Monty Knight was inducted into the Northland Business Hall of Fame in 2010 and in 2014 he sold the appliance business which now trades as 1OO% Folders and has since provided the Wares Awards with a Retailer and Young Retailer of the Year Finalist!



On 1 February 2003, Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated during re-entry over Texas, killing all seven astronauts on board. Also that month, 8,000-10,000 people marched up Auckland’s Queen Street, protesting against a war against Iraq.


Feb fashion feast – The Electrolux Group took February’s front cover in 2003, taking the opportunity to promote new Westinghouse Alu-Design refrigerators and dishwashers which were said to “create a unique canvas for self expression”.

Behind that comment was the fact that the appliances had an interchangeable centre panel which allowed customers to incorporate their own creativity into the kitchen appliances.

Whether or not anyone matched their own clothing to the fridge, as portrayed in the ad, we’ll probably never know.


Thank you and goodbye – This time 15 years ago, Parex was bidding a sad farewell to its longest serving employee following the death of Dave Austin who had racked up more than 27 years’ service.

Dave had reached his 10,000-day anniversary on 8 November 2002 but sadly passed away the following month.

He was sorely missed by all at the company and the industry as a whole.

It’s hot up north – In 2003, Harvey Norman was getting ready to enter the Whangarei market and Wares had a look at the competition it could expect.

There was Hubands Retravision, described as “one of New Zealand’s most skilled retailers” and quite possibly the market leader in town, Barrell’s 1OO% YES, which had just opened a 1,000m2 superstore in the new Tarewa Mega Centre, not to mention the national chains, Noel Leeming, Bond & Bond and Farmers.

Yep, that was high powered stuff considering the Whangarei urban population was only 48,000 in 2003.

15 years later, Hubands Retravision has gone, although Warren Huband continues to flourish with Hubands Energy specialising in heating, cooling, solar power and hot water systems.

Bond & Bond closed its doors in 2013 and Farmers in my humble opinion is nowhere near the force it used to be.

The term “rationalised” comes to mind when looking at our northernmost city these days with 1OO% Barrell’s, Noel Leeming and Harvey Norman giving the 57,000 urbanites (and beyond) plenty of scope for deals across all product categories.

From East Tamaki to Tauranga – February 2003’s JVC Retailer of the Month was Hill & Stewart Botany Downs, a 3,000ft2 appliance store in East Tamaki’s Botany Town Centre.

Toby Tagg was the Manager and he explained to Wares how they looked after a large immigrant clientele, many Asians and significant numbers from South Africa and Britain.

“Most New Zealand salespeople are shy about negotiating,” he said. “But to these people, negotiating is part of their life, it’s very natural. Often they move quickly from product to product, adding goods then asking for a reduced total price.”

Toby had been with Hill & Stewart just on a year, having spent 15 years in the grocery industry. His philosophy was to first sell Hill & Stewart then the products virtually became add-ons, which very often added up to full household lots for these new citizens.

Toby now owns a Paper Plus franchise in Tauranga and I chatted with him recently. “After my time at Progressive Enterprise, Hill & Stewart was where I learned retail,” he says.

“Here in Tauranga, I also have Kiwi Bank and NZ Post franchises so life after the appliance industry is certainly challenging.”


Movers & shakers – In February 2003 David Ackery moved into the hot seat at Harvey Norman Electrical, replacing Hall of Famer Nik Papa. (Actually Nik would return to our shores when David went back to Australia a couple of years later.)

David is now an Executive Director of Harvey Norman Holdings, responsible for the relationship between Harvey Norman Holdings, Harvey Norman’s electrical franchisees and strategic relationships.

On the supplier side of the fence, our good friend Eric Bleakley was appointed General Manager at Sunbeam, having spent time at Panasonic, Philips and Sharp before a seven-year stint at Farmers.

In 2010 Eric and wife Linda incorporated their own company, Image Optical Group (, an eyewear provider whose primary customers are independent opticians.



Iran had opened its first space centre and launched a rocket into space this month 10 years ago while in Cuba, Fidel Castro announced his resignation as President (in favour of his brother) after 49 years in power.


Hot or what?Mark Rice’s CDB distributes the Goldair brand these days but a decade back Goldair was part of Specialised Sales & Marketing’s stable, with heating, barbeques and small appliances.

In her editorial, Pauline Herbst let her imagination run amok and contemplated her vision for appliance and consumer electronics retailing 50 years down the track.

Amongst other musings, she wondered whether big boxes might be replaced by massive space warehouses with virtual access.

I wonder what sort of rates you’d pay in space?

In (say) three decades time, some of you might see how that forecast went...

Not just brand but service too – Samsung had taken a leaf out of Sony’s book 10 years ago having opened a brand store called Samsung Plaza on Newmarket’s Broadway in Auckland.

Flying in especially for the occasion were Messrs JW Kim (Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Asia Pacific and Oceania), and Mr Min (General Manager of Samsung New Zealand).

Jean-Philippe Diel was General Marketing Manager for Samsung NZ at the time and he said: “The new Samsung brand store will focus on providing the complete customer experience, complementing the great work our retail partners do. Our goal is to ensure New Zealanders have complete confidence when buying Samsung products,” he added, pointing out that Samsung Plaza would include an after-sales service centre.

Jean-Philippe is now CEO of The Ripple Club (, an independent consultancy which he created in 2009, specialising in integrated marketing communications, retail strategy, brand strategy and consumer experiences firmly targeted at the client’s bottom line.

Jean-Philippe tells me he’s also keen to re-enter the tech industry, preferably in a senior marketing role so, if you have a position available, call him (021 648 424).

Great Scott – In 2008 it was time for the establishment of Miele New Zealand, the brand having until then been well represented in New Zealand since mid-1992 by Steelfort Engineering in East Tamaki.

Brian Scott, with 14 years’ experience with the Miele brand at Steelfort already under his belt, moved north to oversee the new Miele New Zealand operation as National Sales Manager.

Another big change 10 years ago was the simultaneous introduction of the Miele Chartered Agent (MCA) system. “This means that Miele is the retailer while our chartered agents are a conveying process,” said Brian at the time.

In 2018, with the highly successful New Zealand operation recently having been rewarded with more autonomy than it has enjoyed historically, Brian will shortly retire.


Philips’ Rugby connection – Philips had held its customer Christmas Party at Fox’s Ale House on Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour and in keeping with its 12-year association with the All Blacks, also in attendance were Keith Robinson and Doug Howlett, members of the squad which took part in the ill-fated 2007 Rugby World Cup campaign.

They were pictured at one stage with Darren Ephraims of Dick Smith Electronics who later had the best part of 10 years with The Warehouse before his position became redundant.

Darren is in the process of looking for a new position right now so give him a call (021 267 9309) if you think you can help. He has coached rugby at junior and senior levels, both Club and Representative within New Zealand and Australia and intends to continue in the upcoming season.

Dyson cleans up – Dyson made the news 10 years ago by the fact that its vacuum cleaners were part of the clean-up following the Ellerslie Flower Show. The same combo was to be in operation come April, at the Small Business Expo in Auckland.

Related surprise news a decade later is the arrival of Dyson here in May in its own right, Avery Robinson having seen 20 successful years as one of the very few independently owned Dyson distributors worldwide.


The games people play – Gaming was still on a growth curve for bricks & mortar retailers 10 years ago and back then Monaco Corp was a leading player with Anthony Ward, Divisional Manager – Interactive heading up its charge.

Monaco had represented Nintendo for over a decade before the brand was relinquished in 2006 but THQ and Ubisoft had been on board since 2003 with Sega becoming a partner in September 2007.

Asked what the next step might be in gaming domination, Anthony replied: “We expect to see continuing growth for the entire gaming market in 2008, driven by the next generation platforms, increased market coverage and the current generation platforms still providing solid software sales.”

Ant now runs his own company, Fiveight Distribution (, an entertainment distributor representing leading global brands in the gaming software and gaming accessory categories including Electronic Arts, Disney Interactive, SEGA, Turtle Beach, Gioteck, Ubisoft and Warner Bros Interactive, exclusively for the New Zealand market.

Dunedin, where else? – With a headline of “Selling to Scarfies and Scots”, it was pretty obvious the Energy Star Focus on Retail would highlight a Dunedin dealer and Noel Leeming got the nod in February 2008.

Mark Ahlfeld was Manager – as well as Assistant Regional Manager for the Southern region and Senior Manager for Bond & Bond Dunedin. With an obvious passion for his work, he said: “It changes every day. Each customer is different and you’re working with the latest technology.”

Mark put the success of the store down to the blend of unique personalities across his whole team and added: “For me personally, this company gives me the opportunity to expand and develop. I never feel I’m at the end of where I can potentially go.”

Mark joined Noel Leeming as Assistant Manager of the Timaru store in 1995 before crossing over to manage the Bond & Bond site in 2002. Still in Timaru, he moved back across to Noel Leeming as Manager two years later and made the move to Dunedin in 2006 where he was responsible for a staff of 17.

Mark is still with Noel Leeming Group and for a little over nine years has been the Regional Manager for all points Ashburton south and across to the West Coast.

“After 23 years I still love the industry,” he tells me. “It’s continually evolving and is always exciting.”

Also in the Noel Leeming Dunedin team photo by the way was Chris Templeton, back then Assistant Manager and now, 10 years on, Noel Leeming Product Manager Tech Solutions.

And, as Manager of the same Noel Leeming store in Dunedin, Chris was named 2013’s Young Retailer of the Year – must be something in the water!

Movers & Shakers class of Feb 2008 – First up 10 years ago we met Kim Conner who’d been appointed General Manager of Consumer Imaging Products at Canon, having previously spent five years at Schwarzkopf, the last three as GM.

Rachael Carder joined Philips as Supply Chain & Distribution Manager for the Consumer Lifestyle business after two years with Nike in Melbourne and Johan Lagerholm, previously GfK’s Commercial Director for the Nordic area, became Country Manager for GfK New Zealand.

Kim’s still with Canon – as CEO – and Rachael, after stints at Adidas NZ, Bendon and DB Breweries, is now Customer Services & Logistics Manager at Cerebos.

Johan is back in Sweden, working as Nordic Product Head – PoS Measurement for Lund.

A decade back, Amanda Carr, these days heading up Spectrum Brands, became National Business Manager at Remington after three years as National Sales Manager. She is another in the long line of former Philips types still prominent in and around the industry.

Still in 2008, Noel Leeming Group had appointed Roslyn Mortimer as Head of Marketing, moving her up from Marketing Manager for the Noel Leeming brand. Today, Roslyn (Barlow) is back in her home-town of Whakatane where she is Business Services Manager at Whakatane District Council.

Brennan Loft joined JVC as Northern Territory Manager after five years as a rep in the textiles industry and four as a salesman at Farmers, and Chris Taylor, following time at Noel Leeming, Carters and ITM, had been appointed Southern Retail Account Manager for Fujitsu General.

Brennan is now an Account Executive with Twin Agencies, a company providing sales and merchandising services for New Zealand manufacturers in the supermarket sector and Chris is a Territory Manager for Tasman Insulation in Christchurch.


So, 2018 is underway! Next time out, from April 1998, we’ll look back on an iconic Dunedin department store. We’ll catch up with the well-known personality who was ultimately responsible for the Tefal, Krups and Moulinex brands by rerunning a snap from April 2003. And we will relive some choice moments from the Harvey Norman Charity Golf Day in support of Cure Kids. Until then, “Go the Highlanders”!

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