Rolling back the Years: October 1995-2005

By Merv Robertson October 01, 2015 Rolling back the years

Three decades of the history of the appliance channel, as seen through the pages of Wares. 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.


In August two decades ago, OJ Simpson was found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife Nicole and her friend, Robert Goldman. The All Blacks were touring Italy and France. Back home, Maria Carey and Shaggy shared top spot on our music charts with Fantasy and Boombastic respectively. Shaggy’s real name is Orville Burrell, he is Jamaican – but I guess you already knew that.

The magazine’s editorial previewed an Electronic Appliances Guild conference specifically for the service industry which was to take place in Rotorua. There had been some bad publicity in Consumer magazine and on Fair Go for what the magazine described as a “valuable but increasingly dysfunctional sector of our industry”.

Wares felt that many of the problems highlighted in the media lay at the feet of “apathetic retailers” but said that was no excuse for the service industry not to take control of its own destiny.


Going big with smalls – 20 years ago, Kenwood and Breville’s Kitchen Assistants were together on the front page. Of course these days these brands aren’t stablemates, Kenwood being part of the DéLonghi roster. Still with smalls, back in October 1995 the Kambrook brand was distributed by Melco (it’s now with Breville) and was about to be launched “into a new era”.

Stephen Lee was Marketing Manager for Kambrook while Fiona Anderson looked after key accounts out of Melco’s head office. Fiona also headed up the sales team, consisting of Lisa Robinson, Area Sales Manager for the South Island and eight reps. Back at the ranch, Stephen was supported by Noel Atkinson (Product Manager), Alison Bray (Sales Office Coordinator) and Melissa Buchanan (Assistant Product Manager).

Stephen is now selling residential real estate for The Professionals Hutt Valley and Fiona has her own contracting and consultancy firm called Fiona Anderson Contract Services ( based in Auckland.

Alison has her own business called 2 Spare Hands (, helping busy people cross off their to-do lists and Melissa (now Melissa Cheals), is GM of Sales & Marketing at VTNZ headquarters in Wellington. I couldn’t locate Lisa or Noel.

Who won the lucky draw? – Leading up to peak season in 1995, Philips ran a lucky draw competition through all Hill & Stewart and Selectrix stores to promote its All-in-One PC.

Our good friend and currently Merchandising Manager at ACL, Bryce Purdy (“Bruce” Purdy according to the caption) was at Hill & Stewart in those days and, with Alison Crosbie of Philips, he’s in the magazine presenting Michael Paterson with his prize.

Alison is now Chief Marketing Officer at eStar, a provider of e-commerce platform solutions.


But first there was teleshopping – Online retail is a Big Deal these days but, 20 years ago, Telecom was just set to launch a “retail revolution”.

Home teleshopping trials (involving as many as 70 Auckland homes!) linked customers to a Woolworths supermarket using a barcode catalogue and a telephone incorporating an LCD screen and a barcode reader. Payment was debited from a nominated bank account and the goods delivered to the doorstep at a time nominated by the customer.

“It’s fascinating what this will do to business,” said Richard McLean, Telecom’s Manager of Channel Strategy. “It gives them a virtual branch in each home.” The next phase would be a large-scale pilot project with the telephone service likely to extend to other areas such as banking transactions and bill payments.

It was a Big Deal back then, clearly, but Telecom didn’t realise the half of it. I mean, does anyone even use the phone for these sorts of things any more?


Some things never change – “The kitchen is the hub of the home. It’s the place where people gather. Where they prepare food, and more often than not – where they enjoy eating as well,” said Southcorp Whiteware in a full page ad launching the new Vulcan Finesse kitchen appliances.

Southcorp was born out of Vulcan NZ and Tony Hunter was its GM. These days, after a period as Email Appliances it’s called Electrolux Home Products. Tony Hunter was an Appliance Guild board member in the late 1990s and retired in 2007 following time as GM of Allgas Products in Nelson, a division of Shell Gas NZ. He and wife Daphne have travelled extensively since, and are keen golfers.


Gimme five! – By the mid-1990s, Radiola had been making more than a good fist of establishing Samsung in New Zealand. The Korean brand itself had also experienced a meteoric international rise over the previous decade to become one of the world’s leading consumer electronics manufacturers.

So confident of its quality was Samsung that from 1 September 1995, all its televisions, video recorders and microwave ovens sold in New Zealand carried a 5-year warranty. Globally, Samsung claimed the position of 3rd largest manufacturer of CTV in the world, 2nd largest for VCR and number one for microwave ovens.

Retailer rocking on – Eastern HiFi had just opened a new store on Link Drive in Wairau Park. Pitched as “a walk into the future”, this was a 5,500ft2 shop with a warehouse-type layout and an array of AV merchandise. Stores carrying the big “E” logo were not for the run of the mill punters, boasting such names as Yamaha, Denon, Marantz, Audiolab, Sonic Frontiers, Audio Innovations and Grundig.

Five sound rooms catered to different customer specifications and each area was controlled by a multi-zone system located on a wall panel. Company Director Anthony Muriel showed Wares around. We now find Anthony at AT Distributors, importers of top end hi-fi where he is Business Development Manager.


Remember pre-press? – When Retail Trading Services (RTS) installed the latest pre-press production system which enabled the group to produce all its own advertising material, initially for its appliance division – Retravision. Wendy Morris was the RTS Marketing Services Manager and the system was supplied and installed by Image Net NZ where Denise Langdon was General Manager (“Where are they now?” in Wares’ April 2014 issue).

Wendy said at the time: “This is a turning point for our in-house marketing department. We have employed creative staff to handle this work with a goal to become more professional and react more quickly to market movements.” Wendy now has her own residential interior design business, Artemon ( whilst Denise is co-owner of PaRnz, a golf holiday and event operation.



In the first year of the new millennium, the Black Caps won the ICC Knockout Trophy in Nairobi, beating India by four wickets. Chris Cairns (in the news then as now…) hit 102 not out. On a global scale, Sydney’s Olympic Games had been taking place over September and October.

15 years ago this month, Breville had claimed the front cover celebrating a million plus New Zealanders who had used Breville, while the magazine’s Editorial railed against those who railed against the state of the nation and the Labour Government for introducing the Employment Relations Bill.


Sporting aspirations – In October Y2K, Philips announced that it would continue its All Blacks sponsorship. New to the package was the Philishave Schools First XV training sessions with the ABs. The Wares camera was at one such session and somehow a certain Simon Little (not generally known for his sporting prowess) managed to get into the action.

Still with sports, Panasonic was a major sponsor of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Panasonic’s parent company, Matsushita was a worldwide Olympic Partner and two Astrovision video display screens were installed at the new Stadium Australia as well as Panasonic screens at all other venues.


Going back to your roots – Back here in heartland New Zealand, at a more grass roots level of sport, Panasonic had also renewed its sponsorship deal with the Taranaki Rugby Union. Craig Reid represented the company at the signing.

Later with Fisher & Paykel, and more recently CEO for D’Arcy Polychrome, “Chalky” decided against relocating with the innovative Kiwi paint firm to a new US-based head office, opting instead for a break and the opportunity to look at something new in Godzone. He’s now started looking for new projects and business opportunities.

These days, we know Stephen Hodson as General Manager at Fujifilm but, 15 years ago, he was pictured in Wares as the recently appointed Sales & Marketing Manager at JVC, back then an autonomous unit within Hagemeyer NZ.


When Email was a company – Email Appliances had been talking to Wares about its pre- and after-sales service. Around 20,000 calls per month were registered from retailers, service agents and end user customers.

The majority of these callers had been welcomed by the “Voice of Email”, Káren Caldwell, but a new partially automated system provided the option of being switched directly to the Call Centre, freeing up reception and reducing wait times.

Malcolm Bain, Email’s new National Sales Manager underlined: “There is more to selling an appliance that providing the cheapest price. Customer service is a big part of the package and Email is providing the complete package.”

Email became Electrolux Home Products and Káren became Office Manager at the Centre for Advanced Medicine. These days, as Káren Crandle, she describes herself as “a lady of leisure – I’m too young to say retired.”

15 years on, Malcolm, of course, is Director of Electrolux New Zealand.

What price “smart” appliances? – On the retail scene, Retravision held its annual Awards dinner. Talking to Wares, Rob Duckworth as the group’s Chairman reckoned that retailing was a simple game and that the most important aspect of appliance retailing was the people, not high-tech, futuristic gadgets.

“Appliances should be dumber than us,” he said at the time. “Just like our furniture, pets and elected representatives.”

Since retiring from our industry in September last year, Rob put in a few months of well-deserved R&R but is now involved in residential and commercial property projects, as well as operating a mentoring service for small business – and then there’s the golf and fishing!

Still with retail, the Sunbeam Excellence in Retailing plaudits went to Hill & Stewart’s mega store in St Lukes with Roger Teague, Sunbeam’s GM, making the presentation to Rod Sorensen and his team.

Millennial movers & shakers – Melco was certainly moving & shaking. Darren Lawson became the Aiwa Sales & Marketing Manager and Mike Lee was promoted to National Sales Manager. These days, Darren is a Franchise Owner at Mike Pero Mortgages in Auckland and Mike is North Island Franchise Manager for Night & Day Food Stores.

In the same issue of the magazine, Email announced changes Malcolm Bain as National Sales Manager and Nicole Charmaine as Assistant Marketing Manager. Nicole is currently contracted to Paper Plus as Marketing Communications Manager covering for maternity leave.



Last decade, Helen Clark cobbled together her third term Labour-led Government. Jim Anderton’s Progressives tagged along in coalition, with NZ First and United Future giving support in confidence & supply.

A decade ago at the New Zealand Music Awards, Dave Dobbyn was named Songwriter of the Year for Welcome Home and, on a tragic note, the Bali bombings took 26 lives.


Who were 2005’s top retailers? – Expectations were high a decade back as the 2005 Wares Awards Finalists were announced. Set to front up to the judges in the Retailer of the Year category were Cherie Kerrison (Meikles Retravision), Majid Poortoossi (Harvey Norman Palmerston North) and Joe Scaramuzza (Selectrix Retravision).

Contesting the Young Retailer run-off would be Liam Bryers (Harvey Norman Wanganui), Paul Halliwell (Stereo World Retravision) and Hayden Lilley (Harvey Norman Rotorua).

You’ll have to wait until the next instalment of “Rolling Back the Years” to find out who won… These days, Cherie is GM at Appliance Shed in Auckland, Joe has retired but keeps active with some boardroom assistance (and as a member of the Business Mentoring Society) while Majid (with The Good Guys until the NZ operation closed) is keeping his current status confidential.

Liam and Hayden have both crossed the ditch. Liam is in a marketing role with Whirlpool working out of Melbourne, while Hayden is in Townsville running his own agency business, Biz Solutions across appliances and hardware. And Paul owns the successful Auckland retail outlet AV World, specialising in mid-top end hi-fi.


More about smalls – Former Wares Staff Writer, Peta Temple, now back in the UK, contributed a comprehensive piece on small appliances. Her sounding boards for this exercise were: Cliff Carr, National sales Manager at HWI Breville (now National Sales & Marketing Manager at Sunbeam); Eric Bleakley, General Manager at DéLonghi (he and wife Linda are now in the eyewear profession with their own business, Image Optical Group supplying independent optometrists); and Christine Johnston, General Manager at Sunbeam (now doing part time contracting).

The article was too wide ranging to sensibly précis here but two angles caught my eye. The first was the so-called “predators” to traditional appliance retailers – namely supermarkets and home improvement stores – get used to it!

The second point of interest was around research from GfK, which showed that to the year ending 31 July 2005, SDA unit sales had increased by almost 12% over 2004 and by 4% by value. The average price however, had fallen by 6.9%.

Although the SDA landscape has definitely changed, GfK’s current stats show significant growth in like for like sales and in value, volume and average price, not to mention a proliferation of brands…

Blue, blue, my world is blue – After more than 25 years, Stereo World’s distinctive blue building on the intersection of Dominion and Valley Roads in Auckland had been attracting “complaints from the public”.

Auckland Council also found that no permit existed for the equally iconic signage, which was large and could be seen from many angles, but which also had to come down.

I had a yarn recently with Bill Belton, who founded the business, and he obviously still feels the angst: “They made a scapegoat of us and then dropped the campaign against similar signage altogether.”

Bill, an ex-muso from way back, closed the business in 2008 and in retirement enjoys catching up with his old mates from the music industry and attending as many concerts as he can.


Harvey’s Aussie expo – Sydney played host to the Harvey Norman’s 2005 Australasian conference and expo with over 60 suppliers exhibiting. Christchurch Proprietor Graeme Watt, now New Zealand’s GM for Electrical accepted the New Zealand Store of the Year award.

Suppliers to collect gongs for excellence on this side of the Tasman included LG Electronics for whiteware, Sound Group Holdings for audio, Panasonic for visual and HWI for portable appliances.

As part of the latter presentation and in the long tradition of Irish and Greek cultures, Brett O’Neill and Nic Papa carried out a memorable hongi. Brett, as we know, heads up Breville NZ and Nic is still a leading light in Victoria for Harvey Norman.


Betta goes G2 – Martin’s G2 Betta Electrical store in Hamilton won the Direct Imports-sponsored Excellence in Retail spot. Dennis and Gayle Weatherell were the owners and this was the first Betta shop to operate under the new Generation 2 format.

In 2008 Dennis and Gayle decided that CE was just not worth the effort. “We opted to specialise in whiteware,” Dennis tells me. “After speaking with suppliers, who all said ‘Go for it!’ we got on board with Kitchen Things and haven’t looked back.”

Winning the “battle of the brands” – The 2005 Appliance Connexion conference was held in Tahiti and the late Wayne Burton, ACL’s Chief Executive, talked about a “battle of the brands” – retail brands that is.

“The in-store experience has to meet the promotional communication that we proffer – we cannot afford inconsistency in brand values which just confuse the customer,” he said. “We need to identify our point of difference and spearhead that message to the consumer. To do this, we require a holistic, 100% commitment from all members to support the brand.”

100% retailers Heathcote Appliances, LV Martin & Son, Barrell’s, Mason Appliances and Selectrix Invercargill won the 2005 member awards whilst supplier awards went to Fisher & Paykel, Panasonic, HWI, Vodafone, Avery Robinson and Pudney & Lee.


Multiple movers & shakers – 10 years ago, Noel Leeming Group (NLG) had beefed up its marketing team with Juanita Neville-Te Rito appointed General Manager Marketing. Tracy Wilson became Insights & Strategy Manager, Angela Irwin was Marketing Manager responsible for the Noel Leeming brand, Debbie Yardley became Marketing Manager for Bond & Bond and Elaine Joyce was Visual Merchandise Manager.

These ladies remain close friends and make a point of socialising whenever possible. Juanita went on to establish Hotfoot (, a retail marketing communications agency for ICG (Image Centre Group). Most recently she has moved to Group CEO – Agency within ICG.

Tracy is National Strategy & Consumer Marketing Manager at Metcash Food in Sydney, Angela is Brand Marketing Manager at Farmers, Debbie is Strategic Communications Manager at Green Cross Health in Auckland and Elaine is Global Store Development Manager at Pumpkin Patch.

October 2005 also saw Sunbeam announcing that Sharon James had joined the company as Customer Services Manager and Serena Hollis was Account Manager.

Sharon, who started her industry career with Sanyo, is now Customer Central Manager with Electrolux Home Products and Serena is currently enjoying the life of a young mum (Electrolux’s Malcolm Bain is her partner).


More movers & shakers – Specialised Sales & Marketing appointed Andrew Crossland as General Manager and Steve Penman as National Sales Manager. Jason Heckman joined LG Electronics as Central Region Account Manager.

Clinton Russell was Consumer Electronics Sales Manager at AKA Technology, Stuart Ross moved internally at EECA to head the new ENERGY STAR programme and Eric Flemming joined Arche Technologies as Account Manager.

The winds of time have moved these gentlemen into very diverse industries. Andrew is CEO of Construction Components in Christchurch (manufacturer of high quality prefabricated bathrooms) and Steve is National Retail Channel Manager with D-Link, a networking equipment provider.

Jason is a Hutt Valley licensed franchisee for the landscaping side of Jim’s Mowing and, after a stint with Direct Imports, Clinton joined Convoy International in Melbourne as Brand Manager before taking up a similar role at the Sydney HQ last year, with the additional responsibility of Marketing Manager.

Stuart is a Portfolio Manager with ACC while Eric and his wife Margaret own a Chemwash franchise in Auckland.


Coming up in our December 2015 issue, we find out which retailer was celebrating 50 years of trading (20 years ago, that is!), we check out who was in the news at Hagemeyer in Y2K and learn who won what at the Wares Awards a decade past.


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