Rolling back the years – August 1996-2006

By Merv Robertson August 20, 2016 Rolling back the years

Take a look at the last 20 years in appliances and consumer electronics as seen through the eyes of Wares magazine. 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.



On 4 August 20 years ago, the Atlanta Olympics were winding up. Our medal haul was modest but we recall Danyon Loader’s brilliance with two golds in the pool and equestrian Blyth Tait, who won a gold then two silvers plus a bronze.

August was also when Boris Yeltsin commenced his second term as Russian President and when Charles and Diana were divorced.


The Aussies are coming! – The August 1996 editorial was all about retail, in particular how the impending arrival of Harvey Norman would play out alongside the soon-to-be-merged operations of Noel Leeming and Bond & Bond. Could Fisher & Paykel recoup share with Harvey Norman compensating for the loss of Noel Leeming thanks to the conditions of the EDA.

Talking of Fisher & Paykel, the local whiteware player also used to be a distributor, and in this respect, 20 years ago, it was using the inside front cover of the magazine to launch Zanussi into our market. This brand was designed in Italy but part of the Electrolux International Group, as it is today.

NEC was advertising a range of four microwaves but again in retrospect managed to shoot itself in the food by referring to New Zealand as a branch of Australia.


Tellus all about it – Floor care company Tellus was bought by Nilfisk of Denmark in 1992. Four years later, in 1996, your author was recruited as Sales & Marketing Manager. I hired as Account Managers Vanessa Gola in Auckland, Paul O’Regan in Wellington and Richard Mills in Christchurch, all three coming from within the industry.

Vanessa is now Sales Manager New Zealand at Zedpac, a packaging company, Paul is Central Area Manager with DéLonghi and Rick is National Manager with AlightSykes, manufacturers and importers of auto self-priming pumps, lighting towers and generators.

Goodbye Radiola, hello Samsung – Radiola secured the New Zealand rights for Samsung in 1993 and after three years was using Wares as a vehicle to say “thanks” to Kiwi dealers, firstly “For working with us to put the passion (and the dollars) back into audio” (a reference to the success of Kenwood) and then “Sales continue to climb – 1996 is proving to be a great year”, in relation to the growth of the Samsung brand.

Radiola Corporation, as a wholly owned subsidiary of Aquiline Holdings, was sold to ANZ as part of a major restructuring exercise. At the end of February 2010, the bank sold the assets to Samsung and liquidated the company, leading to Samsung becoming established here in its own right.

By the end of that same month a sad note appears on the Radiola website: “As of the 28th of February 2010, Radiola Corporation has ceased to trade. Please be aware that accounts will still be processed until the 30th of April.” 

From Dishlex to dishless – 20 years ago Dishlex was said to hold 50% of the Australian dishwasher market. It claimed no such grand numbers here, but distributors Southcorp Appliances did a good job of riding on the coat tails of the neighbouring market.

Launching the new Dishlex Global range in 1996, Tony Hunter, Southcorp’s GM, and Sales Manager Bevan Baker welcomed retail guests to a function in the Ellerslie Racecourse Convention Centre.

It was a little over two years later in 1998 when Southcorp divested its appliance activity to Email Appliances which was itself taken over by Electrolux.

Tony Hunter is now retired in Nelson while Bevan Baker is National Sales Manager at kitchen appliance distributor Eurotech Design.


Was this the first panel TV? – In 1996, Fujitsu released a product which it reckoned would revolutionise visual communications. Called Plasmavision, just 8mm deep and weighing less than 10kg, it was hailed as the world’s first wall-hanging television and display monitor.

GEC was the New Zealand distributor for Fujitsu in those days and the brand’s GM was one Darryl Rochester. To help with the launch event, they engaged Mr Puniverse, Michael Farrell (all 49.5kg of him!), who performed a “Plasmavision clean & jerk” to demonstrate how easy it was to handle.

Darryl Rochester of course now heads up BDT.


All for one and one for all? – Once upon a time, a long, long while ago, our industry was united under a single banner, sort of.

Retailers, suppliers and the service sector could belong to the Electronic Appliance Guild and, once a year, everyone would come together for a grand conference at which awards were handed out, office bearers were elected and serious meetings were held.

Guild events were eagerly anticipated and indeed, the industry did come together as a unit, faced with competitors such as travel, entertainment, furnishings, automotive and so on.

The Fiji Sheraton Resort was home to the Guild’s 1996 conference. Keynote speaker was Maurice Williamson, a self-confessed techno-nut.

In his address he said: “While we have the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution, the biggest is yet to come – the information technology revolution.” He suggested that there would be breaking down of boundaries between computers, telecommunications and broadcasting to a point they would become so interrelated that it would be hard to tell the difference.

“The so-called information highway is no more than a huge conglomeration of networks,” he said, “and we are going to live on the damn thing!” He knew a thing or two did Maurice Williamson.

Wendy Palmer of Market Pulse told the conference that research showed for every person who said they went to a retailer based on price, 10 said the visit was based on service. Today, price is the main driver but service standards can often be a deciding factor when two or more retailers cannot be separated by the almighty dollar.

Now CEO Radio at Mediaworks, Wendy is still the majority shareholder of Market Pulse and a board member, but is not involved day to day.

Retravision looks forward – 20 years ago, Christchurch’s Moorhouse City Retravision opened its doors. Very impressive in its day, this shop was seen as “the pinnacle of an expansion programme aimed at putting Retravision at the forefront of appliance retailing.”

Officially (and grandly) opened by Retravision Chairman Bob Thom, the Moorhouse format was focused on presenting “clear divisional departments where product was Hero and Customer Service the priority”.

At the time we reported that local consumers had “voted with their wallets” and returns had been exceeded by 20-25%. “Some excitement has been kicked into a dull market.”

In the same vicinity as the new “lifestyle megastore” were Smiths City, Southpower, Bond & Bond and Noel Leeming. Despite starting off with a hiss and a roar, Moorhouse Retravision closed within a few years, “under a cloud”, some say.

Not quite a blaze of glory – Yachting legend Ralph Roberts (MBE and JP) was profiled in the August 1996 magazine as the owner of Roberts Electrical 100% YES in Takapuna, a business founded by his parents and which had been a prominent retailer since the 1930s.

The piece was about Ralph’s illustrious career as an international yachting personality, his business and the arrival of the Electronic Appliance Guild (of which Ralph was the founding President) that had emerged from the old, unwieldy Merchants & Retailers Federation and the Radio TV & Electrical Association.

Arsonists attacked Roberts Electrical twice, the second time in 2006, after which the business closed and Ralph retired from the industry.



Carisbrook in Dunedin was the scene of the first Bledisloe Cup rugby test, won by Australia 23-15, a result that was repeated in Sydney three weeks later to lift the famous trophy. Microsoft also launched Windows XP and, at the end of the month, the World Conference against Racism kicked off in Durban South Africa.


Two brands enter, one brand leaves – Breville through Kambrook was making a determined play for a slice of the congested floor care segment with a DPS pushing its new range of four fully-featured, HEPA-toting Kambrook Jaguar vacs. Kambrook believed this line-up was “Ready to clean up by setting a new benchmark in performance, style, features and good value prices.”

In 2000, Philips had stunned the industry by announcing its withdrawal from the small appliance and vacuum cleaner markets. The latter category in particular was a major surprise as Philips had worked hard to establish itself as market leader.

However things changed the following year and in August 2001 Wares announced that Breville had been appointed sole Australasian distributor for Philips DAP products – Philishave, Ladyshave, other grooming, body, beauty & health products, plus food & beverage, irons and vacuum cleaners.

The move may have been a big call, but the logic was sound. Brett O’Neill, GM of Breville NZ explained: “A three tier operation like this with three great brands – Breville, Kambrook and Philips, means retailers are dealing with one company, with one invoice and one delivery.”

As well as the brands, people, in the form of Graham Street, Sarah Jeffrey and Mark Gilbert, also transferred across from Philips DAP to Breville.

Brett of course still heads up Breville NZ, whilst Streety, after subsequent stints at Sunbeam and DéLonghi, is retired although he keeps busy producing the Electro Technical Association’s e-newsletter.

These days, Sarah is a Licenced Demand Planner at Coke, while Mark, whilst undertaking some contract work, is looking for new opportunities (phone number on request).


CE meets IT – By 2001, Hagemeyer NZ was the New Zealand distributor for JVC and had adopted a new business approach by re-establishing the brand through a strategic partnership with Tech Pacific, NZ’s largest IT distributor.

Stephen Hodson, now heading up Fujifilm, was the JVC National Manager and was looking forward to working with the new brand’s tiny digital video cameras and high-style audio systems: “The business is moving forward!” Tech Pacific was acquired by Ingram Micro a few years later.


It’s 2001 AD (After Dyson) – Dyson’s new television commercial, “Close Scrutiny”, concluded that no other vacuum cleaner in the world had the same technology as a Dyson Dual Cyclone vac.

Brett Avery, back then Director of distributor Avery Robinson, informed readers in our pages: “Before Dyson introduced the revolutionary Dual Cyclone technology, the vacuum cleaner had remained almost unchanged since 1901.”

Brett moved to England a couple of years ago and now lives in leafy Surrey, where he is Managing Director of Farplants, the largest wholesale supplier of outdoor plants in the UK with an annual retail turnover in excess of £50 million.


From Compaq to Compact – Along similar future-focused lines, 15 years ago Compaq was promising to help customers evolve from computing to communicating with its Evo notebooks, “a family of access solutions that raises the standard in simplicity, innovation and value for business customers”.

From being one of the original portable computer pioneers, having suffered from the dotcom bubble and in comparison to direct operators like Dell over the years, Compaq would merge with HP in the early 2000s.

The perennial question, “Does size really matter?” was again raised, this time by Nilfisk on the release of its new Compact vac for small homes or apartments. Nilfisk reckoned it wasn’t how big it was, but what you did with it that counted. Fair call.


It’s Kenwood but not as you know it – We know industry character Reece Ford as General Manager Sales at Délonghi NZ, but what of his past? A decade and a half ago, Parex was announcing its appointment as NZ distributor for Kenwood small appliances, the former Hagemeyer brand, promising “Kenwood as you’ve never seen it before”.

Along with the clever catchphrase and creative “See who’s behind Kenwood now”, Reece was introduced as the new Kenwood Brand Manager.

Retailing at the Apex – The 2001 Apex Awards were attended by around 200 industry types with supplier gongs presented to Philips, Bosch, Sunbeam, Breville and Trade Tech while Harvey Norman, Powerstore, Farmers, Hubands Retravision, Kitchen Things, LV Martin and Heathcote Appliances all picked up retail awards. Overall Retailer of the Year was Harvey Norman.

This was the second running of Apex, organised by the Appliance & Electronic Industry Association but oddly there were no individual awards. The pics contain some well-known present and past industry stalwarts.


Retail ups – Retail attracted its fair share of attention and first up the August 2001 magazine recapped on a significant consumer national promotion run by 100% YES with $130,000 worth of prizes up for grabs, including Nissan motor cars.

Across at Appliance Network, the annual conference had concluded in Queenstown with Bosch in the form of Paul Ravlich picking up the Supplier of the Year Award.

This month 15 years ago, the magazine’s Sunbeam Award for Excellence in Retailing went to Harvey Norman Manukau City. David Stannard of Sunbeam presented the accolade to the retailer’s small appliance expert Heather Chowanetz, accompanied by Denise Park and David Kennedy.

Nik Papa, last year’s inductee into the Industry Hall of Fame, was Harvey Norman’s Electrical Proprietor for Manukau and New Zealand GM and said at the time: “It’s great to win awards, especially when they are provided by suppliers. It shows the partnership is working and that can only benefit our customers.”

David Stannard is now enjoying life in the winterless north and as he puts it: “We have a wee bit of land that is keeping us busy at the moment and planning to pick up some part time work in the near future.”

Heather is still selling appliances for Harvey Norman in the Albury NSW store, whilst also operating as co-owner of BTW it’s Gluten Free, a bakery supplying cafés and restaurants with all kinds of gluten-free goodies.

Denise Park left Harvey Norman to join NZ Customs but I couldn’t locate her to confirm where she is now. And David Kennedy is a Driver Testing Officer at VTNZ in Auckland.


And retail downs – LV Martin (Wares’ Iconic Retailer, April 2011) had been dealt a harsh blow. When TVNZ decided to ditch infomercial programming, LV Martin’s Shop & Home series also had to be scrapped.

Neil Martin, grandson of the founder Leo Vincent Martin and son of Hall of Famer Alan Martin, fronted the popular, entertaining and outstandingly successful series which showcased a raft of well-priced items including exercise equipment, pots & pans, small appliances, clock radios, jewellery, cosmetics, watches and other knick-knacks.

Undaunted and supported by a series of TVCs based on the original format, the company then opened a store in Auckland’s Botany Town Centre, taking this merchandise direct.

Neil and Fiona Martin now call Arrowtown home but frequently jet across to their Sydney apartment, catching up with family and “Doing what grandparents do”.

Movers & shakers 15 years ago – Remember the TV ad from way back in which a bloke told us he liked Remington shavers so much, he bought the company? His name was Victor K Kiam II and 15 years ago Wares was reporting the death of this entrepreneur, aged 74.

Another undoubted mover & shaker was Mike O’Neill, widely recognised as the driving force behind Whirlpool in Australasia. Mike started the Australian business from his home office in 1990 and launched the New Zealand operation in 1995. Regarded as an industry visionary, he retired 15 years ago to pursue new challenges in the field of non-executive directorships and executive development.

A decade and half back, new appointments included John Lincoln who became South Island Territory Manager for Direct Imports and Scott Wright, Philips’ Marketing Manager for Consumer Electronics.

John now operates as GM for specialist residential construction lender NewBuilt, while Scott is Business Development Director at Lion Breweries.



Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu was born on 23 July 1931 and died on the Turangawaewae Marae in Ngaruawahia on 15 August 2006. Her Coronation as Maori Queen had been on 23 May 1966 and her 40-year reign was the longest of any Maori monarch.

10 years ago, Prime Minister Helen Clark suggested that Taito Phillip Field should “Reconsider his future as an MP” and, from the “Need to know” file we learn that at the end of August 2006, Paris Hilton’s bed, complete with tell-all mattress was being auctioned for sale online. Could that be the most riveting part of this whole yarn?

Editorial reference was made to the sad passing of industry icon Dennis Amiss (more on that later), the pending arrival of The Good Guys and bad public behaviour towards retail staff, often caused by misleading advertising raising the ire of customers.


A day at the races? – Philips was a sponsor of the Williams F1 team and HWI, by now the exclusive NZ distributor for Philips small appliances, had a related Philishave Father’s Day promotion which would see one lucky purchaser win an all expenses trip for two, taking in the Brazil Grand Prix in Sao Paulo. Now that would be worth winning eh!

I hope that one outcome of this series is that readers find things out about their industry they didn’t know previously. I sure do anyway. For instance, I had no idea that Sharp Corporation of New Zealand was a significant sponsor of the racing industry, but that’s what its advert told the industry 10 years ago this month.

To perchance to dream – HP took its products to the people in a fun way, decking out a funky 1970s caravan called “The Dream Machine”, with heaps of working gear for visitors to touch and feel.

The team of Jessica Look (from HP’s PR company Acumen Republic), Dave Procter and Kirstin Kane toured the country, stopping in at events such as Vodafone XAir, the V8 Supercars race at Pukekohe, Auckland University’s orientation events, the Ingram Micro Showcase and more.

The venture was hailed as a big success. We now find Dave as Marketing Manager for Philips Lighting Australia & New Zealand, based in Sydney and Kirstin is Library Assistant in the Wanaka Library.


Old suckers never die… – A major part of Nilfisk’s centenary celebrations had been a public competition to find the world’s oldest Nilfisk vac still in full working order. The incentive to hunt was strong with a €4,000 in travel to be pocketed by the winner!

Matthew Brown was a technician at Cotters Electrical in Christchurch (Wares “Retail Icon”, December 2010) and a long time vacuum cleaner nut with his own museum collection containing many old machines, most of them still operational. Pride of place among Matthew’s display was a 1926 M20, beautifully preserved and in excellent working condition.

Matthew was the winner and it was up to Nilfisk Account Manager Caz Arthur to present him with his prize. Caz is currently an Account Manager with BSH Home Appliances in Melbourne and Matthew is working part time, still in Christchurch.

From Rotorua to resort & real estate – In 2002 Paul Sanford (August 2011’s “Where are they now?” subject) opened his Star 100% Your Electric Store in the Rotorua Central Mall. A year later he was joined in partnership by Grant Kilby (“Where are they now?” April 2012).

The pair won Wares’ inaugural Retail Store of the Year Award in 2003 and the shop breathed life and excitement into Rotorua until 2006 when Paul moved into commercial real estate and the business was sold to LV Martin & Son, by then a wholly owned subsidiary of Smiths City.

Grant stayed on as Manager for a year before he too moved on. Smiths City would close the doors in 2008.

Paul is now an ace for Harcourts Real Estate Commercial whilst Grant owns Hahei Holiday Resort on the stunning Coromandel Peninsula.


Doors opening and closing – August 2001 brought another sad closure with Wellington-based Radfords, ironically not long after it had been celebrating its 100 years of trading.

Although best known as a furniture retailer, Radfords also had a strong appliance presence with stores in Wellington, Porirua, Paraparaumu, Lower Hutt and Palmerston North.

Magness Benrow meanwhile had no thoughts of closing anything and in fact had opened a new branch on Constellation Drive on Auckland’s North Shore. The team at the 700ft2 (65m2) shop were mainly recruited from Roberts Electrical which had closed after two arsons.


Smiths’ 88 not out – Smiths City (Wares’ August 2012 “Retail Icon”) was the subject of the magazine’s “Focus on Retail” as the iconic Christchurch-based department store chain celebrated its 88th birthday.

General Manager Martin Simcock, spoke to Wares: “88 years ago, this was an auction room,” he said. “This was the starting point for the company. We have an anniversary promotion each year in August and we’re starting this year’s promotion counting up to the first 100 years of business. Time flies and it’s only 12 years away – we’re looking forward to it.”

Martin finished his 32-year stint at Smiths in October last year and, apart from ongoing earthquake insurance issues, these days is swimming around 14 ks a week so he’s trimmer and fitter as he contemplates a possible return to work at some stage – maybe…


Distinguished indeed – 10 years ago, the founder of Robinson Industries, Noel Robinson, had become Sir Noel in the Queen’s Birthday honours having been named a Distinguished Companion for his service to business and the non-profit community.

Since his retirement from the business bearing his name, Sir Noel has spearheaded the Economic Strategy for Manukau City where he was instrumental in raising $50 million for the TelstraClear Pacific Events Centre (now named the Vodafone Events Centre) and his community contributions since are too far reaching to list here.

Forming the Guild – In the last issue’s instalment of “Rolling back the Years”, we remembered Dennis Amiss, who passed in June 2006. In our August issue that year, we ran his obituary.

Dennis had an opinion on most things and, during his time as General Manager of Hill & Stewart (the original under founder John Stewart), he dared to table a radical proposal to rejig the old Radio, TV & Electrical Retailer’s Association.

Dennis wanted an organisation which would take initiatives, prepare for the future and embrace the industry as a whole – including service companies, retailers and, shock horror, even the “dark side” (suppliers!).

John Stewart then sold off H&S branches as franchises and Dennis accepted a role at RTS without his proposal having seen the light of day. However, barely a week into his new job, Dennis received the call the Association had endorsed his plans and wanted him on board to head up the revamped group!

Thus was born the Electronic Appliance Guild, or simply “The Guild” as it became known (despite a name change further down the track).

Guild conferences were the stuff of legend, with well-briefed keynote speakers, industry analysis, focus groups and most of all, great fun. Dennis and the Guild also launched the Apex Awards in the year 2000.

He possessed almost uncanny political skills with his personality, preparation and forthright honesty enabling him to move around all facets of the industry as well as leading credible delegations in lobbying various Government departments and other bureaucracies.

Dennis Amiss was also a good bugger!

Movers & shakers 10 years ago – With a raft of new appointments (see the photos top right), there was a whole lot of moving & shaking going on this time 10 years ago.

Canon appointed Mike Johnston as National Manager Customer Care, Tara Worley as Marketing Operations Manager, Robert de Jeu as Product Manager Paper & Consumables and Brad Gibbons as Retail Channel Manager.

Mike became MD at Canon and is currently CEO at prominent recruitment company Emergent. Tara is now Tara Robinson and is Associate Principal at JASMAX, a multi-disciplinary design practice and a Director at Ellerslie Automotive & Tyres – as well as a registered Celebrant and Robert, along with his wife is “Investing in personal growth through travel,” exploring many other countries. Brad is still at Canon, as National Sales Manager.

10 years ago at HWI, Mike Hodgson signed on as Key Account Manager, Olivia Russell joined Electrolux Floorcare as South Island Account Manager and Pudney & Lee recruited Chris Hendry as Central Auckland Sales Representative.

Today, Mike is Retail Account Manager with Peros Limited, Olivia is now Olivia Julian, mother of three and working part time at the Lone Goat Winery just out of Christchurch and Chris is still with Pudney & Lee, looking after Auckland and Northland as well as some Key Account Management.

Like Canon, Panasonic made four new appointments in August 2006, with Ben Watson and Dave Shanks taking up Account Manager positions, James Keene becoming a Key Account Manager and Andrew Reid being a Specialist Account Manager.

Ben is now with Bose in the UK, Dave is GM Service & Delivery at Sharp Signs while James and Andrew are still at Panasonic – James as National Sales Manager and Andrew as a Product Manager.

Back to movers & shakers a decade back and BDT was welcoming new Sales Representative Vicki Goulding and Bob Weir was introduced as Dyson’s South Island Territory Manager to round out proceedings.

Vicki (now Vicki Ritchie) is a fulltime mum living on the Gold Coast while Bob retired just over a year ago but does voluntary work for the Cancer Society in Christchurch.


Next time we meander our way around Memory Lane, we’ll look back at the Appliance Industry Awards held in September 1996, drop in on 2001’s ACL conference and see which retail group was in Rock & Roll mode at its gala Awards dinner in 2006.

See you then!

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