Rolling back the Years: August 1994-2004

By Merv Robertson August 01, 2014 Rolling back the years

It’s informative and entertaining what you can find looking back through the pages of Wares magazine in August 10, 15 and 20 years ago. Wares’ time traveller, 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, in August 1994, Tiger Woods wins the 94th US Golf Amateur Championship and the All Blacks draw with the Springboks at Eden Park. New Zealand’s first casino opens in Christchurch, David Bain is convicted and the first fast-ferry service begins operation across Cook Strait. Jim Bolger is Prime Minister.

The front cover of Wares announced the arrival of Scholtès’ upmarket French kitchen appliances. Back then, Greg Mikkelsen was Scholtès distributor Robinson Industries’ Marketing Manager: “We will reach consumers through the media so they understand Scholtès, what it is, where it is positioned, and ensure they get a feel for the brand. Secondly, we will ensure they are so happy with their purchase they will want to tell others about it.” 

These days Greg is General Manager Enterprise, Commercial & Trans-Tasman for Gen-I, Telecom New Zealand’s $1billion ICT business employing 2,000+ people in NZ and Australia. Scholtès is now represented here by eurotechDesign. 

From Simpson to sailing– Simpson Appliances previewed its new Greenfridges. The new models were completely free of HCFCs and HFCs and prototypes had even been handed over to Greenpeace and the Ministry for the Environment for evaluation. 


Speaking recently from his home in Sydney, Trevor Carroll, then GM of Simpson Appliances NZ, recalls that the concept really appealed to Kiwi consumers and what was revolutionary technology back in those days, is now part of standard specifications for fridges virtually across the globe. 

Trevor transferred to Australia in 1995 and became CEO of Electrolux for Australia and New Zealand in 2001, retiring from the role seven years later. After a six-month stint with the company in China, Trevor returned to Sydney, taking up several non-executive Board roles. Today he is on the Board of The Good Guys and also the Big Sister Food Group, all the while finding plenty of time for sailing!

Are You Ready for Philips?” – 20 years ago this August, Philips was making a big play for the trendy youth market with a range of audio products launched under the catch cry of “Are You Ready for Philips?” 

Star of the show was the FW46 midi system boasting such impressive features as a 7-disc CD changer, dual auto reverse tape decks, one touch selection, digital tuner, remote control and 32 Watts RMS of power per channel. RRP was $1,199 which is closing in on $2,000 today. 


In 1994, Bruce Priddy was Philips’ Product Manager and Duncan Armstrong was Technical Support Manager. Despite the dramatic demise of Philips over the past few years, Duncan is still in the same role (now for Australasia) and he remembers these products well: “20 Watts of sheer grunt,” he chuckles. “This was RMS too, in the days before claims of audio output power became simply ridiculous. These models were built like the proverbial brick outhouse and hardly ever broke down.” 

Selling yourself first – Back then in appliances, Kitchen Things was announcing its entry into the Hamilton market. Managing Director, Peter Perrett, outlined the firm’s priorities: “First we have to sell Kitchen Things, then the brands, then the products.” 

The first few weeks were reported as being very successful with customers coming from as far away as Taumarunui and Taupo. One of the reasons for this success would have been the appointment of a certain Nigel Little as Manager, who came to the new store armed with “excellent management experience in the motorcycle industry in New Plymouth”. 

Guild goes mad in Raro – The Appliance Guild held its 1994 conference in Rarotonga. The Warehouse founder, Stephen Tindall, was the keynote speaker and really drew the crowds, no-one knowing quite what to expect. 

Wares described his address as “an anti-climax”. Tindall explained The Warehouse strategy of bringing more New Zealand-made products to the shelves. He concluded by stressing that retailers needed to be more efficient, have continual commitment, be ready to change and to think long term. 

Probably the only spice came when he was asked from the floor if The Warehouse was looking to secure any of the appliance brands represented at the conference. Tindall responded, “It would be nice to have the brands and we could sell the brands if we had them. But I think we can survive without them.” 

Who was moving & shaking? – As is always the case, Wares’ regular Movers & Shakers columns throw up some interesting names. For example, NEC had officially launched its New Zealand operation with the appointment of Theo Naus as General Manager. 

The plan back then was to keep distribution narrow to encourage better margins for retailers carrying the brand. Previously, Theo had carved out a fine career with Philips working both in Eindhoven and here in New Zealand. 

Today, he is a sales & marketing consultant in Auckland, undertaking projects for a variety of companies. At present he is contracted to SAYR Ventilation selling “The best home ventilation system on the market”. 

In the same issue, Yutaka Okazaki had been appointed Managing Director of Sony NZ. He had been with Sony for 20 years having spent time in America. At this time, Carl Rose was Divisional Manager Consumer Products at Sony NZ, later rising to become MD before his appointment as Marketing Director UK in 2003. 

Carl relocated to Sydney in 2006 to take up the position of Managing Director Australia & New Zealand and resigned just last year. He now has his own company, CR Consulting, in Sydney.

In appliances, National Sales Manager of Simpson Appliances Warren Brewin had become GM of Appnet, replacing Bob Godward. At the time he said: “I see Betta as big-time in New Zealand. Betta is just kicking off and we have a good backbone to the group.” 

He went on to say that Betta Electrical would have core brands and core products which all members would be required to stock. “Uniformity will be the strength of the group,” he said. Warren plies his skills now as CEO for Lifestyle Retail Group which trades as The Saddlery Warehouse, a major player in the equestrian industry.



August 1999 saw Russian President, Boris Yeltsin fire his Prime Minister, Shania Twain reached top of our pops with Man! I Feel Like a Woman and New Zealand sent a team to the world Taekwon-Do championships in Argentina. Helen Clark and Labour form another Government. So, not much going on really.

Wares’ front cover featured legendary All Black Josh Kronfeld, promoting Philips MatchLine TVs, but oddly enough, there’s not a MatchLine to be seen inside. 

Guild turns AEIA, support wains – In his editorial under the headline of “Adapt, change or register as absent”, Editor Ross Middleton bemoaned the fact that: “A mere 35 retailers deemed the annual Appliance & Electronic Industry Association (AEIA, formerly the Appliance Guild) convention of sufficient value that they should actually attend.” 

He went on: “Make no bones about it. Many of you out there in retail land will not be around in another five years.” Lack of vision or willingness to adapt to change were the prime reasons cited. 

F&P gets cool with design – As the New Millennium neared, the accolades were pouring in for Fisher & Paykel’s DishDrawer. With a string of Australasian awards already in place, the product was recognised with a prestigious Gold IDEA Award in the 1999 Industrial Design Excellence Awards, co-sponsored by America’s highly regarded Business Week magazine. 

And product launches were something in those days. For example Philips held the Australasian launch of its new Philishave Cool Skin range in a really cool venue – Home Nightclub on Sydney’s Darling Harbour. Several Kiwi retailers crossed the ditch, including Peter Gallagher of Smiths City and Cherie Vaughan of Hill & Stewart. 

Electrolux player then & now – A decade and a half ago, Electrolux Floorcare launched its Healthier Homes campaign, built around the recently released Mondo and Excellio models. John Mahar was Divisional Manager for the household appliances business at the time and is down as saying that, although the Husqvarna brand had been spun off elsewhere, the corporation was successfully replacing most of its sales and market share with the Electrolux brand. 

Five years later, in early 2004, John became Product & Marketing Manager for Australia & New Zealand for Electrolux Floor Care & Small Appliances. Then in late 2005, he was appointed Managing Director for the Melbourne-based Australian operation. 

John left the company just last year, when Electrolux decided to make the business a product line of the Sydney-based Major Appliances company. He is still in Melbourne, consulting as GM for Maxim Housewares. 

Floorcare category hots up – Meanwhile, still in 1999, Nilfisk released its Cubic models, a derivative of an Electrolux Euroclean commercial machine (Nilfisk-Advance had by then, purchased the commercial arm of Electrolux worldwide). Described even by then Nilfisk staffers as “perhaps the ugliest vac on the market”, Cubic was however efficient and durable with a 5-year motor warranty and extremely rugged construction.

Staying with floorcare, Wares reported on a what was being called “a small revolution in vacuum cleaners” when it showcased the Dyson DC05, the latest dual cyclone vac. 

DC05 had no bag to clog so suction remained constantly high, despite its diminutive size. Two years earlier, Avery Robinson, in the form of youthful duo Brett Avery and Mark Robinson, had been formed to distribute Dyson vacuum cleaners in New Zealand. 

Bond & Bond’s low-price concept – 20 years ago Bond & Bond had just opened a new low-price concept store in Christchurch’s South City mall. Bond & Bond Direct specialised in end-of-line deals, special purchase offers and trade-ins (déjà vu anyone?). 

In some cases the savings will be massive,” General Manager, David Drees, told Wares at the time. “The store’s concept is to have the lowest prices and a no-frills look, but with service which matches Bond & Bond’s knowledgeable and helpful reputation.” 

Today General Manager of Harvey’s Furnishings, David remembers with enthusiasm how this store, and others which followed in the group, took off. “These shops were genuine clearance centres. We would stack product on and we created an environment in which customers knew they were getting a very good deal without compromise to after sales service.” 

Retravision calling retailers – Using the massive upgrade at Hubands Retravision in Whangarei to promote the concept that Retravision had the buying power of 550 stores across Australasia, Warren Huband said that belonging to the Retravision group with a combined annual turnover of some $1.5b had given him the confidence to make the big commitment to expand. 

Many aspects of his new store were modelled on big Retravision stores in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. Prospective members were invited to call the CEO of Retravision NZ, Leighton Cox, “and make a big difference to your future. The sky’s the limit.”

AEIA: Convention and invention – The Appliance & Electronic Industry Association’s (AEIA) convention in Christchurch was a major feature in the August 1999 issue. AEIA Executive Director, Dennis Amiss, opened the “Digital Millennium” themed event. 

Guest speaker, esteemed customer service guru, Catherine De Vrye, asserted that “The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary” and she set the tone for what followed. 

Minister of Communications, Maurice Williamson, was the keynote speaker: “80% of what our kids will use has not even been thought of yet,” he said at the time but he didn’t know the half of it! 

We wonder how he would revise that speech if he were to make it today? Probably he would just press the Repeat button. The then new AEIA President, Roger Blincoe, outlined his vision for the future whilst F&P’s Richard Blundell was adamant that the only way the local company’s shares could go was up. 

August 1999’s movers & shakers Peter Drummond was the new Chairman of Appliance Connexion (ACL) and Appliance Connexion Group Services, replacing John Mells. Peter had been a Director since March that year and had 15 years’ experience in the appliance industry. 

The four ACL Directors at the time were Trevor Douthett, Grant Heathcote, Gordon Scragg and Brian Mason (who is the subject of our “Where are they now?” column in this issue – see page 80). Peter is still Chairman, as well as CEO, and is a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Henk Aandewiel was the owner of Simister Retravision and featured in an article highlighting whiteware choices outside the Fisher & Paykel EDA. In the article he is pictured in his Tauranga showroom with another long term industry friend, Calvin Sandford, then heading up Whirlpool New Zealand... Henk now operates Mobile Aircon in Tauranga.

Ken Johnson had been promoted from Product Manager to Divisional Manager of the new consumer wholesale division at Ecco (New Zealand). He had played an instrumental role in the release of the Bosch GSM mobile phone into the Kiwi market and we heard about a new local agreement around Groupe SEB’s Tefal and Rowenta brands. 

Howard Mackley, formerly of Monaco Corp, was Managing Director of Ecco NZ at the time. Today, Howard is operating his own internet marketing company, Platinum Sales & Marketing, on Auckland’s North Shore.



August 2004 was about the Athens Olympic Games. New Zealand would win three Golds and two Silvers with Beatrice Faumuina carrying our flag for the opening ceremony. Oprah Winfrey was part of a jury which found Dion Coleman guilty of murder and the Statue of Liberty opened to the public for the first time since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 

Getting pixelated with Philips – Philips had the August 2004 magazine’s front cover, featuring Flat TV with Ambilight and Pixel Plus 2. Pixel Plus 2 was said to sharpen the quality of each individual pixel, resulting in crisp, natural details. 

Philips’ AV Marketing Manager at the time was Jane Waddel. Now running her own marketing consultancy (Marketing Depot), she remembers that release well: “Pixel Plus 2 was awesome picture technology! It was one of the first effective technologies to counter the impact of motion artefacts prevalent in early LCDs.” 

Back then, the All Blacks test series against Australia and South Africa were known as the “Philips Tri-Nations” and former ABs legend Ian Jones was a familiar face promoting the brand as a Philips Ambassador. 

Jane Waddel recalls retail staff training in the Philips Truck, trips to Bruges (Philips’ manufacturing facility in Belgium), radio & TV advertising, hanging out with Ian Jones at pre- and post-match entertainment – “It was ‘hard work’ but hey, it was a blast!” 

Industry ups & downs – Salton NZ was expounding the virtues of “The next Revolution in Coffee” – the Russell Hobbs Uno:Uno pod brewing system. “Spend more of your precious time drinking real coffee than making it”, it made “Perfect coffee one cup at a time, one flavour at a time, in less than 60 seconds”. 

Salton was doing pretty well – it had just relocated to new, purpose-designed premises in Albany. The move had been brought about by the company’s rapid development since its establishment in 2002 driven largely by the success of the George Foreman and Russell Hobbs ranges. It had recently added to its growing portfolio. 

But not everyone in the Wares universe was happy as. In the August 2004 magazine we reported that Electrolux staff were “stunned” by news the company’s cooking appliance plant in Christchurch would be closing with the loss of 159 jobs. 

To put the news into context, the Christchurch plant was producing little more than 300 electric stoves, wall ovens and ceramic cook-tops a day, compared to the Adelaide plant which had a daily output of 2,000+ gas and electric stoves, wall ovens and cooktops. 

The appliance of design – Avery Robinson conducted its fourth annual Dyson Product Design Award and a Massey University design graduate, Leon Oliver, carried the day. Leon invented Sentinel, a product designed for “man overboard” victims. 

Since that success and following his University studies, Leon spent five years at America’s Cup team BMW Oracle Racing, an experience which culminated in lifting the Auld Mug in Valencia, before spending 10 months with Artemis Racing in the Louis Vuitton Challenger Series last year in San Francisco. 

I chatted recently with this impressive young man: “Winning the Dyson Award was a fantastic achievement for me,” he says today. “It involved a lot of hard work, but it was all worthwhile in the end and it was certainly the proudest moment of my student years.” Currently he is back in Auckland, working with Advanced Aero Space but with definite ambitions for a future in industrial design, just maybe on his own account.

Serviette doodle reaps rewards – 10 Years ago, Specialised Sales & Marketing (SSM) out of Christchurch was experiencing huge demand for the Shark Ultimate indoor/outdoor entertainment fridge. National Sales Manager, Jeremy Puttick, said at the time that sales were well over forecast.

Jeremy is now National Sales Manager for Conair New Zealand, personal care specialists representing brands such as VS Sassoon and Weightwatchers Bathroom Scales. 

Releasing that product was incredibly exciting,” he says now. “It was all the more rewarding and unique as it was created as a result of conceptual doodling on the back of a serviette at an airport somewhere in China, by Murray Reid, our founder and Managing Director.”

More movers & shakers – JVC was by now our “Retailer of the Month” sponsor and in August 2004, LV Martin & Son was the winner. Trevor Douthett was CEO, John Lamerton was General Manager Sales and 2004 was the company’s 70th anniversary.

Retravision’s annual Australasian conference was held in Los Angeles received extensive coverage. The theme was “Taking care of Business”. From a New Zealand perspective, the highlight was when Smith & Church of Ashburton was proclaimed winner of Top Individual Store under 1,000m2. A delighted Alister Lilley accepted the Award from Ian Ray, Chairman of Retravision Pty. 

Wares has always recognised industry people who make a difference, and in this issue 10 years ago, we heard from Steelfort, which was the Kiwi distributor for Miele. National Sales Manager, Brian Scott, was snapped welcoming his new South Island Territory Manager, Andrew Stockman. These days Brian is National Sales Manager at Miele New Zealand whilst Andrew is a salesman with Noel Leeming in Tauranga.

Profiled on a page of new appointments was Gavin Kelly, a new Territory Manager for Award Appliances. Today he’s a Commercial Sales Consultant with Jacobsen, flooring specialists.

Also noted was Mark Anderson, who was named as Senior Manager at Direct Imports. Responsible for Teac he then had three years with Dyson as Sales Director, based in Sydney and responsible for South East Asia. Mark is now living in Central Hawkes Bay consulting for some small businesses and is keen to re-enter our industry (in which respect see our News section!).

10 Years ago, Jenny McKay took the newly created role of Key Account Manager Specialty Channels at Fujifilm but, despite our best efforts, we can’t track her down today. In the same issue we see Rowen Hunt secured the role of Product Manager Acclaim/THQ at Monaco; now Rowen Neville-White, she is a stay at home mum living in Auckland.

Peter Frith and Cherie Vaughan (mentioned above at Hill & Stewart in 1999) had joined Appliance Connexion. Peter became Category Manager responsible for small appliances, floorcare & computer/communications (he’s now Team Leader at the Miele Center in Auckland) while Cherie took up the position of Promotions Manager and is currently Floorcare Category Buyer as well as Merchandising & Promotions Administrator.

Well, that was fun! Looking back over these old issues of Wares across the last 20 years has been fascinating on many levels. 

It has recalled the good old days, been a graphic reminder of the speed at which technology advances and shows how the magazine itself has evolved – 24 pages in the first issue in November 1992 to 88+ in August 2004. 

The exercise has put me back in touch some old industry contacts and introduced me to others previously not known to me. My grateful thanks go to you all. 

In the October instalment of “Rolling back the years”, look out for names like Nik Papa, Denise Langdon, Roger Teague, Rob Duckworth and Rob Morris, to mention just a few! See you then.   

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