Rolling back the Years: December 1994-2004

By Merv Robertson December 01, 2014 Rolling back the years

Moving on a couple of months from the last issue, it’s time to revisit the appliance channel, December 10, 15 and 20 years ago. 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, Boris Yeltsin ordered Russian troops into Chechnya. Back home, The Headless Chickens and Ini Kamoze had Number 1 hit singles while in sport, Aussie spinning great Shane Warne dismissed DeFreitas, Gough and Malcolm to snare a hat-trick against England at the MCG.

Wares’ December 1994 front cover featured new AX1 Mitsubishi “big” screen TVs – 25- and 29-inchers no less – featuring Auto Turn (the user could change the viewing angle up to 30° via the remote), Nicam and Teletext. RRPs were $1,999 and $2,499 (or $3,100 and $3,900 today). Halcyon days…

A new vacuum cleaner, the Sanyo SC52, was introduced. This grunty 1150W machine had a 5 litre dust capacity, washable cloth filter and blower function. Retravision would later promote it in a catalogue at $199 ($300 today), quoting a saving of $100. Thanks to Peter Watt for the scan.


Wanna be a sponsor? Philips was again announced as the major sponsor of Opera in the Park at the Auckland Domain at the end of January, an event attracting around 140,000 people. Wares Hall of Famer, Errol McKenzie, Philips’ Business Unit Manager at the time, admitted the brand was being extra careful “to keep it as a public event and not turn it into a commercial opportunity”.

Another sponsorship deal involved Melco Sales using the Aiwa brand on two cars from BMW Motorsport Team Schnitzer in the famous Nissan Mobil 500 Wellington Street Race in December. The factory-backed 318iS cars were driven by two of the world’s best race drivers, Joachim Winkelhock (who won the second race) and Steve Soper


Aiwa Marketing Manager Peter Monk said at the time that Aiwa held “every promise of becoming one of the leading brands in New Zealand” and that the investment in high-profile sponsorship was a key element in this. 

All told, Peter had a decade with Melco and is now combining his passion for photography ( and fine wine, being heavily involved in management at Pinot Noir pioneer Ata Rangi Vineyard in Martinborough (

Key people – F&P’s CEO 20 years ago was Gary Paykel (another Wares Hall of Famer!) who had been awarded the James N Kirby Medal by the Institute of Electrical Engineers of Australasia. Gary paid tribute to the company’s engineers for the vital role they played in this achievement: “They devised innovative ways of making products which, in turn, allowed the products themselves to be revolutionary. Overseas experts had told the company’s engineers that what they planned to do was impossible,” he said. 

Gary retired his F&P Appliances Chairmanship when Haier took over the business in 2012 and in August last year he also stepped down from F&P Healthcare. He and his wife Dot live in Remuera but spend quite a deal of time at their holiday home in Russell and love to get out on the water as much as possible. Gary remains Chairman of the Maurice & Phyllis Paykel Trust which encourages the development of health-related research as well as of the Maurice Paykel Charitable Trust.

In brown goods, Akai was making its presence felt under the leadership of Pat Maroulis, and used an image of Pavarotti to promote a new hi-fi mini system (size doesn’t always matter!) and one of Einstein in support of a new fandango 4-head VCR (super intelligence and a great looking picture). Pat retired in July this year but I get the impression that this will be a temporary break. 

Harold Shepherd was the December 1994 magazine’s only mover & shaker, taking the position of General Manager for the Home Team, replacing David Jorgensen. Home Team had a trading identity of its own for several years before merging under the 100% banner. Harold and wife Flo, who worked with him at Home Team and the early days of 100%, are retired and living in Papakura. 

What about the retailers? – At the end of 1994, Tasman Energy Appliances celebrated the opening of a new showroom in Stoke, with a “Hands on the Freezer” promotion in which the last person standing won $13,000 worth of prizes plus a year’s free supply of electricity from Tasman Energy. The eventual winner survived 88 hours and 10 minutes. 

Geoff Lawes was the Stoke store’s Manager, having sold his business, Fairbairn Lawes, to Tasman in 1993. He stayed on to manage the six stores until 1996 and is now CEO and Director of Fico Finance, which invests in property and runs Management Nelson, a management services business.

For suppliers and member shareholders alike, the Retravision Trade Fairs were to become an annual highlight, eventually finding a home in combination with Retravision Victoria in Melbourne, after similar events in Sydney and Brisbane. 

Still in 1994, Wares reported on the Kiwi affair held at Auckland Airport Travelodge. 45 of Retravision’s 47 members attended, along with 33 suppliers, and orders were committed for the Xmas and New Year promotions. Suppliers combined to vote Rices Retravision of Invercargill as Retail Store of the Year.

New kid on the block, the 100% Your Electric Store franchise, had announced its arrival with a series of TV commercials and they were described variously as “weird” and “wacky”. The theme tune was snappy and the ads captured attention, but viewers wondered who these people were and what they were actually advertising. 

Ted Holland was Group Manager of Fapay (forerunner to Appliance Connexion) back then and 100% YES was the Identified member’s marketing group. Ted said at the time: “This is exactly the reaction we were hoping for! The ads were merely attention-getters and got people asking, what is 100% Your Electric Store?” 

That was the year that was – 1994’s year-end issue devoted several pages to a retrospective look at the year through the eyes of an eclectic group of industry types, suppliers and retailers alike. 

Contributors were a bit of a who’s who of the time: Frank Davis (Simpson Appliances); Mohammed Khan (Hill & Stewart); Dennis Amiss (Electronic Appliance Guild); Chris Fenn (Chris Fenn Appliances 100% YES); Carl Rose (Sony); Pat Maroulis (Akai); Graham Boggs (Panasonic); Ken Rayward (Sharp); Greg Mikkelsen (Robinson Industries); Richard Papworth (Fisher & Paykel); Murray Steele (Athol Vasta Appliances); Trevor Douthett (LV Martin); Warren Huband (Hubands Retravision) and Ken Lilley (Melco Sales). 

Sadly, Dennis, Chris and Ken are no longer with us.



In the last month of 1999: Helen Clark became our Prime Minister when the Labour Party formed a minority coalition Government with the Alliance, supported by the Greens; George Harrison survived a knife attack during a violent home invasion and Serena Williams beat her sister Venus to win the women’s singles at the Grand Slam Cup event in Munich; and the recording industry started going after Napster.

Infamy infamy, everyone has it infamy – Melco took the front cover of the last magazine before the new millennium to promote its range of brands: Mitsubishi; Aiwa; Oasis (not the pop group); IBM; Microsoft; Diamond Blaster (high pressure cleaners); and RCA. “Somebody moved our cheese” was the famous (or infamous) statement at the bottom of the page.

Explain please? “Somebody moved our cheese” had been the theme of the company’s November dealer releases. The story goes like this: these mice had been going to the same place to eat cheese for years, but one day they arrive and the cheese isn’t there. The idea was to express to the market that nothing stays the same – don’t get too comfortable in your environment – and that success would come from changing with the times.

15 years ago, Fisher & Paykel (again possibly infamously) was using world famous American America’s Cup yachtsman Dennis Connor to promote its whiteware across America. F&P’s General Manager of Planning & Corporate Affairs, Richard Blundell, said at the time, “He also qualified because he has lived in a home with a DishDrawer and Smart Drive for years.” Connor is 72 years old and still lives in San Diego.

Making much of Melco – Melco also made the news following a most successful promotion whereby any customer buying an RCA product went into a draw to have the purchase price reimbursed. Michele Morresey (October 2011’s “Where are they now?”) was RCA Sales & Marketing Manager and she and Sales Rep Vanessa Barson were snapped presenting Joanne Bond with her refund in Noel Leeming’s Hamilton store. They were hosted by Store Manager Eric Marshall and Salesman Murray Steele

Michele (now Pollock) runs her own company Creative Council, maximising brand recognition & recall across all marketing disciplines and Vanessa (now Vanessa Workman) is involved with Great Lake Transport, the family business in Taupo. Eric reckons he tried to retire but is now happily selling whiteware and heat pumps at 100% Heathcote Appliances in Hamilton, and sadly, Murray passed away around two years ago. 

Looking towards Y2K – In the “Profiles to Success 2000” section, suppliers looked back on the past year and forward to the next. At Nilfisk we (your author and team!) featured the launch of the first Nilfisk vac in 1910, the recent release of GM400 Series and the revolutionary Backuum “back-vac”. Further product launches were planned for Y2K. 

Our Regional Account Managers were Vanessa Gola and Melanie Albers. Vanessa is currently an Executive Manager with Tupperware in Auckland and Mel (Albers-White) is New Build Account Manager for Right House, a company working with builders and Project Managers in the provision of energy-efficient homes as part of the Christchurch rebuild. 

For its part, telecoms market leader Uniden was about “Connecting consumers to the millennium” with its management team of Gerrard Merrick, Mark Johnson, Mark Sole and Billy Aucamp. Excitement was building towards the launch of Super Digital 900MHz models in the first quarter of Y2K. 

Today, Mark Sole is the MD of Uniden NZ while Mark Johnson is Managing Director at CPAP Sales Pty, a Sydney-based company dedicated to making sleep apnoea healthcare more affordable. Gerrard is MD of Switch EV Global and is developing electric vehicles, the latest development being a smart alternative to the farm quad bike. Billy was recently appointed CFO at MEA Mobile, a product lab and creative agency, initiating innovative mobile apps. 

And pigs may not fly? – Pacific Retail Group combined with Whitcoulls in a new e-commerce site called (“New Zealand’s answer to Amazon” someone said at the time) and of course this was fair game for humorous and barbed interpretations from both media and competitors. At the site’s launch, the talk was about becoming the country’s biggest internet department store. This “dotcom phenomenon” would last just a year before collapsing amid much acrimony.

Retravision held a special Awards dinner at the Sheraton Hotel in Auckland and both local Chairman Rob Duckworth (currently in temporary retirement) and Bob Thom, the Chairman from across the ditch, made reference to the strong performance of the New Zealand organisation after the demise of RTS. 

Leighton Cox, New Zealand Operations Manager, presented Supplier Awards to Email and Philips, then to the various member category winners, including Dimocks, Huntly, Stevens, Phil Booth, Hubands and Huggards. Leighton is now CEO of Industry Management Systems.

Wares also reported the sale of iconic Invercargill appliance retailer Rices to Smiths City with the business to trade as Rice’s Powerstore and Russell Cole appointed as Manager. Some 35 of the 50 staff were retained. 

Further north, Guinness Appliances 100% YES in Tauranga was singled out for our Sunbeam Excellence in Retailing slot and Sue Greig, Sunbeam’s area Representative, made the presentation to Bill Merrick, Sales Manager and Helen Fraser-Brown (now Helen Prince), Small Appliances Buyer. 

A bit more than a decade later, Guinness Appliances, founded as Guinness Bros by Jack and Sid Guinness in 1908, closed its doors. 2011 was the retailer’s 104th year of trading. Helen is now a Breville Consultant in Brisbane while Bill is a salesman at Appliance Shed in Glenfield on Auckland’s North Shore.

More millennial mover & shakers – Ted Holland (mentioned above as 1994 Group Manager of Fapay) had announced his intention to step down as General Manager at Appliance Connexion Group Services to take a part time role as Credit Manager. 

Kathy Webb, who had been the Fapay/ACGSL Administration Manager, was announced as ACGSL’s Company Manager starting in February 2000. Ted and Noeline are enjoying retired life up on the Hibiscus Coast but I have not been able to find Kathy, last known in Christchurch.

 Robinson Industries announced three new appointments at the end of 1999. Graham Ball for one was taking on the wider role of Sales & Marketing Manager. Chris Taylor was newly promoted from his position as Key Account Manager to that of Sales Manager, and Linda Arnold moved from Territory Manager to replace Chris in the Key Account role.

Graham now has a marketing and admin role at HiFlo Pumps in Auckland, while Chris is GM of New Zealand Comfort Group, which incorporates the Sleepyhead, Dunlop Foams and Sleepmaker brands. Unfortunately I have been unable to track Linda down – does anyone know where she is?



Coming within cooee of recent memory now, US President George W Bush is named Person of the Year by Time Magazine, the Civil Union Act was passed by the New Zealand Parliament and Mark (“Rigor”) Richardson retired from cricket after 38 tests for New Zealand, just six short of 10,000 first class career runs. Then there was the tragic Boxing Day Tsunami which took from us almost a quarter of a million people. 

By this time, Wares had grown to 108 pages with 33 advertisers and the last front cover of 2004 featured a camera. Readers were invited to turn the page, which of course we did and saw that two world famous brands had come together – Leica and Panasonic. 

The Leica story began back in 1851 and became probably the world’s most respected camera brand. In 2004, 153 years later, it combined with Panasonic to produce an outstanding range of digital cameras branded Lumix. Both the relationship and the Lumix brand continue to this day.

Who got the industry’s “Oscars”? – The news pages of the magazine 10 years ago were full of the second annual Wares Awards – for many the Oscars of our industry. Familiar faces included Simon Dallow as MC and Bud and Simon Little who both spoke and Brett O’Neill, Managing Director of HWI New Zealand, addressed us on behalf of the sponsors. 

Zack Trotter of Selectrix in Cambridge was adjudged Young Retailer of the Year and he spoke of his ambition to further his career. Indeed, Zack worked in London for seven years but has returned home, and is working in the FMCG sector as a Trade Marketing Representative.

Barry McMurchie, Proprietor at Harvey Norman Porirua, took out the premier Retailer of the Year Award. Barry made it his business to study market trends and had correctly predicted that significant growth was to come for air conditioning. These days, he is Senior Sales Consultant at Century 21 Real Estate in Pakenham, 60km from Melbourne’s CBD. Barry’s wife, Christine Quarrie, is working with him and will be remembered by many readers from her times at Sony and then Harvey Norman. 

Noel Leeming Wairau Park was voted Store of the Year. Suppliers to win on the night were Sunbeam for portable appliances, Electrolux Home Products for large appliances, Panasonic for the audio/visual category and Vodafone for information technology. 

Sink that basket! – Philips had secured the naming rights for the Australian National Basketball League with the competition to be known as the Philips Championship. At the time, Philips Sales & Marketing Manager, Jane Waddell, said: “Basketball embodies the healthcare, lifestyle & technology platforms of Philips and is a great avenue to demonstrate the company’s great range of consumer and medical products.” 

Jane has used her Philips experience dealing with sponsorships, agencies and customers to advantage and has established her own marketing & communications consultancy, Marketing Depot which offers strategic advice to a wide range of industries. (You can call Jane on 021 611 327 to find out more.)

Birthdays and buy-outs – In 2004, Fisher & Paykel was 70 years old and Chairman Gary Paykel was justifiably proud of the progress made. “From small beginnings we have grown to a company employing people in New Zealand, Australia, USA, Canada, Singapore and Europe,” he said at the time. 

Sport, education and a diverse range of community-based charities had all benefited from sponsorships but net profit after taxation to 31 March was still $85.3 million, an increase of no less than 16.1% over the previous year.

Another long term player, Hanimex had distributed Fujifilm product in New Zealand for 40 years but in 2004, Fujifilm bought the company. It was all about digital – capture, store and print – and Fujifilm was emphatic that this was its core business: “New products drive business,” said the company, pointing to the fact that it had introduced new models at all levels.

Remember “Fast Eddie”? – A decade ago, Telecom was introducing TG3, the next generation in mobile, using an impish little guy known as “Fast Eddie” (see the TVC on our Facebook page). This was the launch of Mobile Broadband, dubbed “One of the fastest mobile data networks in the world”. Now you could connect to your email or the internet and send information to whoever, wherever and fast!

Fast Eddie, actually Alexander Iles-Nyberg, was only 4 years 3 months old when the campaign was constructed but was clearly able to cope, even with one TVC shoot that spanned an 8-hour period. Alexander is now 14 and has just completed his third form year at Westlake Boys High. 

Mega retail gets going – Retail was to get another mega shopping centre when the Auckland City Council granted resource consent for a $300 million dollar retail development on a 24 hectare site in Mount Wellington. Construction work would commence in March 2005.

December 2004’s JVC Retailer of the Month was Harvey Norman in Tory Street, Wellington. Bryan Rawiri was the Electrical Proprietor and he spoke with Wares: “It’s looking really professional,” he said. “We’ve got lots of loyal and happy customers and it’s great to get their feedback. People search me out just to say how impressed they are.” These days Bryan is National Sales Coordinator for Noel Leeming.

New faces and movers & shakersWalter Matthews had been recruited by Parex to manage Bissell floorcare and Ian Sharp had joined Group SEB NZ as Northern Region Territory Manager. I hear that Walter may have gone to Australia after a period at Harvey Norman but efforts to locate him came up short, whilst Ian now plies his trade for Nilfisk-Advance. 


At Award Appliances, a new sales support unit had been established, headed up by Irene Hinch who was supported by Jessica Sim and Brenda Sweeney. Irene is now living in Seattle and is flat out remodelling the family home, while Jessica (now Jess Reesby) is currently on maternity leave but will return to Award Appliances in March and Brenda describes herself as a home maker, living on Auckland’s North Shore. 

Elsewhere, Kara Morrow became Marketing Services Manager at Robinhood where she was joined by Steve McArthur as National Sales Manager. These days, Kara is Senior Brand Manager for Mt Franklin still water at Coke Amatil in Sydney, whilst Steve is the Australasian Sales Manager for Stoanz, which markets the Sto range of exterior facade cladding and other technologies for the construction industry.

So there you go! Look out for the February issue of Wares when I will have sought out more familiar names and faces, brands and products and general industry news, including Philips repositioning “for a bright new future” under the stewardship of Alistair Sutherland, catch up with the team at Eddie Law Appliances and see how Retravision added seven new outlets in one blow. 

Thanks to all contributors to this December edition – I hope you all have a happy Christmas and a great new year!  

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