Rolling back the Years: June 1996-2006

By Mere Robertson June 20, 2016 Rolling back the years

The industry, as seen through the pages of Wares magazine, 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 – JUNE 1996

On 8 June twenty years ago, China carried out a nuclear test at Lop Nor, formerly a large salt water lake and, 12 days later Space Shuttle Columbia 20 was launched.

Remember Kiwis Lorraine Cohen and her son Aaron? In 1985, they had been caught trying to smuggle heroin out of Penang in their undies. Lorraine received a death sentence, later commuted to life imprisonment and Aaron got life.

Well, in June 1996, both were pardoned and returned home. Lorraine had fought off breast cancer but died in May 2014, aged 71.


When brown goods were silver – The front cover two decades ago was a silver affair with Sony saying: “And you thought you were selling brown goods”. This was explained inside the magazine with ads for four CE products, all in silver.

The Editorial questioned the need for a proposed certification scheme for PC retailers to protect customers, claiming that the onus was on said retailers to ensure sales staff were savvy and well trained.


Just another state of Australia? – In a June 1996 advert, NEC, by now operating New Zealand out of Australia, saw one of its strengths as “Limited competition in your local market”, inferring that distribution would be selective. That didn’t work out so well, as I remember.

Maybe one reason for NEC’s demise can be seen in the third line below the brand’s logo that read “New Zealand Branch”. Kiwi retailers predictably would have “harumphed” when it came to NZ being seen only as a branch activity.

Although no longer a player in the domestic CE marketplace, the company remains a leading light in IT solutions and products.


Parex passes to new owners – The imminent sale of Parex was flagged in the June 1996 issue, with 75% majority shareholder Harvey Alison, opting out with health issues. Paul Tooley was Marketing Manager, Peter Hawkins was GM and both held a 12.5% stake-holding.

There had been interest in the sale process from within the appliance industry but a group of financial investors eventually purchased the company and Paul stayed on for a year, contracted as General Manager.

Retired from the front line, Harvey is now a Director of Wood Engineering Technology and a voluntary tutor conducting literacy courses at Otahuhu and One Tree Hill Colleges. Paul runs his own consultancy, Tooley & Associates, and Peter is a Consultant at Placement Solutions.


Whirlpool NZ one year in – 20 years ago, Whirlpool was reflecting on a “progressive first year”‘ in New Zealand. During Retravision’s conference in Christchurch, bullish Australasian chief Mike O’Neill said: “We will take on Fisher & Paykel with commitment. With the EDA the consumer is the ultimate loser because it is locking out competition.”

He went on to predict that in 10 years’ time there would only be five key players in whiteware and he wanted Whirlpool to be one of them.

Well, Whirlpool was certainly prominent in the period nominated by Mike, but not as he predicted. Fisher & Paykel took up the distributorship in late 2003 and only relinquished the brand in 2009 when Haier became an F&P cornerstone partner.

Mike O’Neill resigned from Whirlpool at the end of 2001 to take up some non-executive directorships and become involved in executive development.

From a photo in the June 1996 magazine marking Whirlpool’s first Kiwi year, sadly Roy Ritchie lost his cancer battle in Adelaide a couple of months back and, when Whirlpool NZ closed, Arthur Ritchie returned to Australia to join Betta, Terry Fogarty went to F&P but is now retired in Melbourne, Guy Keble-Johnston has his own business consultancy in Melbourne and Chris McKee is Director of Jalmac Sales & Marketing in Christchurch.


“Satellite television: the future today” – That was the headline 20 years ago this month, marking Uniden’s very early entry into the satellite TV market. Commentators had been saying that domestic home TV dishes would not arrive here for another year or two so the question was: was Uniden jumping the gun?

GM David Norrie defended Uniden’s early release which was targeting people with their roots in, say Asia or Europe, saying they could install a home dish system and tune in programming which originated in their “home” country.

Uniden would supply Sky TV with the first analogue satellite receivers but, much to David Norrie’s disappointment, just as digital was set to become reality, Uniden Japan opted out of the category.

David now owns and runs Anderson & Norrie, a creative company specialising in website development and additional related services such as website audits and search engine optimisation and marketing.


Brands come and brands change hands – Today, home theatre systems are pretty commonplace but in the mid-1990s Sanyo had just started pushing its HT-D47 system. It was user-friendly, had Dolby Pro-logic surround-sound and connected to the customer’s existing Hi-Fi system, Nicam VCR and/or TV. Its RRP was $499.95.

The Sanyo brand would eventually become exclusive to The Warehouse before becoming a subsidiary of Panasonic in 2009.

It’s 20 years since Parmco introduced the 900 Turboair oven. Dealers could expect worthwhile profits with the Turboair range which enabled dealers to offer “complete kitchen solutions at unbeatable prices”.

Southcorp Appliances was also in launch mode, revealing the all new Hoover model 5020D Electronic Auto Sense Clothes Dryer. Eight selling features were listed, as was an RRP of $649 which equates to about $960 now.

Coffee makers have come a long way over the last couple of decades but in 1996, Black & Decker was making a concerted effort to make a dent in the small appliances segment with a comprehensive range called Black Pearl and a focus on coffee.


Of retailers and roadshows – In June 20 years back, the Robinson Industries team had spent some weeks taking their brands and products to the trade. Rotec, Moulinex, Krups, GE, Hitachi and Dimplex were showcased and, when it was all over, Noel Robinson used Wares to send out his thanks to all dealers who had lent their support.

In June 1996 we read about one of the inaugural DSE agents in Hastings. Bay Tech Services, had been a David Reid outlet and with the change had needed much bigger premises and a site with a lot more passing foot traffic and Manager Hugh Hutcheson confirmed that sales had already increased.

Around 10 years ago DSE bought the Hastings business and Hugh now works for Sirtrack, a Hawkes Bay company that designs and manufactures wildlife tracking systems for both the domestic and export markets.


Comprehensive on conferences – Then as now, comprehensive reports were carried on two conferences – Betta Electrical had held its second annual event in Rotorua while Retravision met in Christchurch for its Australasian shindig. Both groups placed magazine ads touting for new members.

Graeme Wingate opened the Betta show saying: “We are now on the right track to achieve our goal of being the foremost appliance brand in the country.” But there were also lessons to be learned from other retail groups as he reminded members they were in business for profit.

With Betta’s other aim being: “Let’s work together and bowl the opposition over.” Neither of those two goals has exactly turned to gold but it’s nice to see Appnet regrouping and Graeme is enjoying retirement on the Hibiscus Coast, north of Auckland.

Around 600 delegates turned up for the Retravision conference. Chairman Bob Thom expressed the view that suppliers were taking the group for granted and becoming complacent in their dealings with Retravision.

He believed the decision to push forward into the computer market was correct – if just in time – and then devoted much of his address to digital retailing and its effect on the future.

“The PC will become the focal point of entertainment and information in the home with the interest being on an uncontrollable and unstoppable growth curve,” he stated. And thus it was for quite a few years.

It’s also history now that Retravision went through some very tough times in Australia, drastically reducing in size and buying power. Over here, the group closed down at the end of 2008.

Briscoes grows and thrives – 20 years ago, Briscoes Panmure was the first tenant on a new 9-acre retail development on the Ellerslie/Panmure highway in Auckland followed, not surprisingly, by Rebel Sport.

This was a new concept store and, with Briscoes moving towards larger shops, it boasted 27,000ft2 of retail space (2,500m2 in today’s money), supported by a 4,000ft2 store room. The signage was new, as was the point-of-sale, and the aisles sported new angled shelving.

Warren Povey was the store’s Manager and he seemed pretty chipper about his new responsibilities: “We took a punt hiring a totally new staff and it was the most challenging thing I’ve done in my 25 year career. It has worked well and the team has taken ownership of the store.”

Briscoes was the largest privately owned retail chain in New Zealand with at that stage, 21 stores nationwide. The Panmure branch still exists, albeit in premises originally housing The Warehouse and that Briscoes store, recently home to Big Save Furniture, is now Bed Bath & Beyond.

Then as now, Tammy Wells is the “Briscoes Lady”.


June 1996’s main mover & shaker –20 years ago, Steve Bootten had just joined Robinson Industries, taking up the position of General Manager (and then CEO) after 11 years in various management roles with DB Breweries here and in Australia, and Magnum Corporation before that.

Steve’s business career is illustrious to say the least, before and since Robinson Industries. He was CEO of Kapiti Coastal Airport and Business Park but now he owns Bootten Consultants in Auckland and is a Director of several organisations, both commercial and not for profit – most notably, as Director & Chair of the Audit Committee of Cavalier Corporation and part of the “turnaround board”.


Intrepid, driven, Dennis – Most of us who knew the late Dennis Amiss remember him as more than an intrepid, dedicated industry servant – we remember him as a friend. Reading the profile of Dennis in Wares’ June 1996 issue brought back many memories of personal experiences with him which dated back to 1973.

Dennis had started working as a pharmacy apprentice, didn’t much like it and, after his compulsory military training as an RNZAF trainee pilot, he took up an adult apprenticeship as an electrician.

But nine years as a sparky was enough and off he went on his OE, joining the famed Harrods as an appliance salesman and progressing up the ladder to become Appliance Buyer at Rackhams, a Harrods subsidiary. Returning to New Zealand some years later he became Sales Manager at Hill & Stewart, then still privately owned by John Stewart.

When John sold the branches as franchise units, Dennis joined RTS, but only for about a week before he was appointed General Manager at what would become the Guild of Electronic & Appliance Retailers in August 1980.

To Dennis, this was just like starting a new business and he went about the extraordinarily complex task of building an organisation which could somehow bring together suppliers, service companies and retailers – chains and independents alike – in one reasonably united group.

He strongly maintained that our industry’s real competition wasn’t each other but furniture, hardware, entertainment and travel, all of whom were chasing the same discretionary dollars.

This was a tough gig but Dennis Amiss was hell-bent and driven. After all, the Guild concept was the result of a radical restructuring proposal he had put to the Radio, TV & Electrical Retailers Association during his Hill & Stewart tenure.

Membership peaked at 225 companies in the late 1980s and what we now know as the Wares Awards started life as the Apex Awards, another Amiss initiative, in 2000.

Dennis Arthur Amiss succumbed to cancer in June 2006 and we now mark the 10th anniversary of his passing.

A footnote – I caught up with John Stewart recently. He’s 90 now and as bright as a button. He’s still very interested in vintage/veteran motor vehicles and has just sold a 1951 Rolls Royce Silver Dawn convertible which he had fully restored.

His pride and joy is a deDion motorised tricycle, imported by his grandfather in 1898. John carefully restored it over time and indeed, took it for a spin just a couple of months ago.


15 YEARS AGO – JUNE 2001

It was on 5 June 2001 when Tropical Storm Allison struck upper Texas, destroying 2,744 homes and leaving over 30,000 people homeless.

Across the Atlantic a couple of days later, Tony Blair became the first UK Labour Prime Minister to be elected to consecutive terms of office.

Here at home, Carl Hayman, Marty Holah and Mark Ranby were the debutantes in the All Blacks squad to play Samoa. The shock omission was Jonah Lomu, who coach Wayne Smith said would be used “down the track”.

Sony claimed the cover again, following up with a DPS showing 11 new product releases. Two Walkmans (Walkmen?), a hi-fi system, a plasma panel TV and a DVD player were on one page while the central theme on the other featured its forthcoming Memory Stick chewing gum-sized storage medium which worked across a range of devices.

Still an integral feature on some Sony products today, like HD cameras and camcorders, we understand this medium – an alternative to the ubiquitous SD card – is still being actively developed.


Email goes to Electrolux, Panasonic to F&P – 15 years ago this month, Electrolux was still celebrating its April 2001 acquisition of Email (see the last issue!) and Michael Treschow, Trevor Carroll and Andrew Bentley can be found in Wares’ June issue cutting the “E-Day cake” in Sydney.

Trevor is now a Non-Executive Director of The Good Guys, still based in Sydney (and presumably eyeing what will come of the company’s forthcoming IPO or purchase, whichever happens first).

South of Auckland, Panasonic’s Asia Oceania Director Morihiro Sato was accompanied by Manukau City Mayor Sir Barry Curtis and Graham Boggs, Panasonic’s NZ Chief, in opening the company’s new premises on Te Irirangi Drive in East Tamaki.

A cherry tree was planted to mark the occasion. These days, there’s not a cherry tree in sight and that address is now home to a car dealership, Panasonic having moved just up the road to Sir Woolf Fisher Drive, in the Highbrook development.

As an aside, Pana’s current address on Sir Woolf Fisher Drive brings with it some extra resonance: Matsushita (now Panasonic) first entered the New Zealand market in 1962, supplying refrigerator parts to Fisher & Paykel, one of whose founders was of course Sir Woolf Fisher.

Then, in 1971, a sales agreement was signed that would see National, Technics and Panasonic products come to the New Zealand market through F&P. That agreement lasted until 1998-1999 with the split between Fisher & Paykel Healthcare and Appliances.

Fast, fun and lots of Watts – There was plenty of action on the floor care front 15 years ago. Dyson UK had just launched its latest technological winner for example.

Redix Cyclone had been three years in the making and there was a fair bit written on what Redix meant, but essentially it improved constant suction power in upright vacs. Dyson NZ would release its first Redix uprights in early 2002 said Wares.

Also in June 2001, Enterprise Tools re-released the Shop Vac brand with a range of six heavy-duty wet & dry models. These days Shop Vac is found in hardware and some specialist stores.

Irène Lyttle is General Manager of Shop Vac Australia and she tells me they manage the Kiwi market from there now. Enterprise Tools distributes the Nilfisk Blue Line equipment today, including vacuums and high pressure cleaners.

Electrolux told us to “Kick the Bucket” meaning we should trash the old mop and bucket and get ourselves into revolutionary steam cleaners. Its Enviro Steamer range catered not for just hard surfaces, but also upholstery and glass.

LG rounded out the action by announcing “The New Clean-Up Team”, which turned out to be new model vacs and dishwashers, including a Cyking bagless model with a washable HEPA filter and a 1600 Watt barrel vac with 420 Watts of suction power and a 9-layer filter system.


The full monte at Monaco – Monaco Corporation was profiled in Wares’ June issue 15 years ago. By then a fully owned subsidiary of Shriro Pacific out of Hong Kong, Monaco had been extraordinarily successful in developing the Pioneer brand.

15 years ago Pioneer dominated the lucrative mini hi-fi category and, when DVDs hit New Zealand, Monaco and Pioneer were at the forefront with an aggressive campaign (10 free movies to each purchaser of a Pioneer DVD player) which helped capture over half the market at its peak.

Toshiba was another brand to be taken to a leadership position by Monaco and of course there were Wharfedale speakers along with TDK audio, video and computer media. Moulinex and Krups were relatively new acquisitions in 2001 followed by GE and Dimplex/EWT when Hagemeyer closed.

Dave Wenham was the MD back then, supported by a management group comprising Dave Barden, Mike Colodzinski, Mike Davies, Alan Rogers, Mark Coory and James Clark.

These days, Dave Wenham is Australasia Chief Executive at Glen Dimplex; Dave Barden works in the Bay of Islands as a Key Account Manager with ITM Haruru Falls; Mike Colodzinski is in the computer games business in Sydney; Mike Davies is Managing Director at Adecco Personnel; Alan Rogers is with Harvey Norman in Gympie on Australia’s Sunshine Coast; Mark Coory is Managing Director and Owner of Capisco, a supplier of high end lifestyle and entertainment products; and James Clark is a teacher at Upper Harbour Primary School.

The smallest and the first – In 2001 Philips International released the world’s smallest MP3-CD player, specifically designed to play smaller 8cm discs which could contain over three hours of digital audio. It was powered by a single AA battery and weighed just 220 grams.

Panasonic on the other hand, had released the first internet-capable photocopier with Grant Shaw leading the fray in a series of dealer demonstrations. 15 years later, Grant is still a Panasonic man (27 years now!) as AV Divisional Manager for New Zealand.


Small and perfectly formed – June 2001’s Sunbeam Award for Excellence in Retailing went to LV Martin in Ngauranga Gorge, Wellington and Noel Stempa, LV’s small appliance guru, was on hand to accept the spoils.

Around 4,000ft2 (370m2) of showroom space was allocated to small appliances, a category Noel at the time believed many retailers were underestimating, given the importance many items played in everyone’s daily lives.

And he was right wasn’t he? Just look at the scale of smalls today.


Breville moving & shaking – This month 15 years ago, Breville had the Movers & Shakers spot to itself, announcing not only Andy Sheppard who had been appointed Operations Manager responsible for customer service, spare parts, warehousing and distribution, but also Pamela Jacobs came on board as Accountant and Ruth Woodbury, who’d recently joined Customer Services.

I wasn’t able to catch up with Andy but Pamela is doing financial advisory work on her own behalf in Brisbane and Ruth is engaged in art education at Corbans Estate Art Centre.


10 YEARS AGO – JUNE 2006

The 60th edition of the Tony Awards was held on 11 June a decade back and the Best Performance by a Leading Actor was won by John Lloyd Young who played Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys which won Best Musical.

Later in the month the Carolina Hurricanes took out ice hockey’s fabled Stanley cup when they beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 and here, Tame Iti was fined $300 and costs for shooting the New Zealand flag (I wonder how he voted in the recent referendum?).

BDT and Mitsubishi Electric had the front cover, supported by an inside DPS, waxing lyrical as you would expect, on the virtues of their heat pumps with great emphasis on low noise – “New Zealand’s quietest”. Sounds familiar?

Fanfare and flair – As you would expect, the launch of the 2006 Wares Awards received plenty of space in the June 2006 issue, while the editorial had lots to say about Telecom’s lack of performance in satisfying the consumer’s insatiable thirst for better, faster broadband and other technological advancements.

Philips showed a bit of creative flair in a DPS designed to make retailers fully aware of its upcoming campaign to sell flat panel TV. A character by the name of Tom purported to be the font of all knowledge in revealing the comprehensive marketing mix and even had his own website.

In fact his website and an email blitz were the first on his list of plans followed by strong Point of Sale material featuring (you’ll never guess), the All Blacks. Radio was important with every major station carrying the Gospel according to Philips and the package was completed with extensive print media, championed by the All Blacks.


Whose turn to take the floor? – The three main floor care protagonists were at it again with Dyson’s message being simple and to the point. There are three main things to look out for in a respectable vac: Does it work properly, never losing suction? Does it expel only clean air? Are there any ongoing costs? The claim was that only Dyson delivered on all three.

Electrolux on the other hand was wooing Joe Public with the offer of a 30-day money back guarantee, the first time it had made such an offer.

Over at Nilfisk, centenary year promotions were gaining momentum with Wares announcing a consumer promo for its top-end Extreme models. All purchasers of Nilfisk Extreme in May and June would go into the draw to win an “Extreme Weekend” at a New Zealand Heritage destination of their choice.


Specialising in big brands – Christchurch-based Specialised Sales & Marketing was doing a great job as distributor for Goldair and Shark. So successful in fact that there were new premises in Auckland plus an office in Shanghai where a staff of three liaised direct with manufacturers.

At the time, GM Andrew Crossland said: “The new setup will help us to operate more effectively and deliver on our promise to provide well designed, high quality products with good safety standards that people would be proud of in their homes.”

Also on hand at the new office’s opening were Steve Penman, Mike Hodgson, Dave Andrew and Monica Young.

Today, Steve is National Retail Channel Manager with D-Link and Mike is Retail Account Manager for Peros, a supplier of all types of retail and promotional umbrellas. I was unable to locate the other three – any clues?


Future-proof or not? – Criterion Furniture made a rare appearance in this issue of Wares 10 years ago, advertising its new, Ultima entertainment centre. Destined to fold in 2012, Criterion would go the way of several similar operations whose living depended on making panel-based flat pack furniture to support old style consumer electronics products.

Another such operation was Goode Industries, which went into liquidation in 2014.

A decade back however, Philips was already well along the way towards some new directions with the launch of a new mother & child care range which included nutritional products as well as items for sleep and comfort, health and hygiene.

Dick Smith spreads the net with Power House – Ten years ago, the Dick Smith Power House concept was a new addition to the Auckland retail scene with a 2,000m2 store opening in Manukau, South Auckland, following a successful trial in Hamilton.

Dick Smith New Zealand GM Stu Meadows explained the new direction: “Traditionally we have been about supplying technology and electronics equipment to trade and home users, but technology and home entertainment are rapidly converging and we’ve identified a real opportunity in the market to bring these products together under one roof.”

So Power House sold TV, media centres, home and car audio, gaming, cameras, telephones and portable appliances. Dan Mills managed the store and Bryan Thompson was the group’s Area Manager.

10 years down the line, Stu Meadows is co-owner of Tollesbury Enterprises and Bryan Thompson is Showroom Manager at PlaceMakers in Westgate, West Auckland, but we have lost track of Dan.


“Relax, recharge & rejuvenate” – That was the tagline for Retravision’s 2006 Australasian conference in Fiji which welcomed 530 delegates. New Zealand’s contingent was 75 from 32 member companies plus 25 from 15 suppliers.

The local Minister for Tourism, the Honourable Pita Nacuva welcomed the group, Bill Harries, Chairman of Retravision Australia, made the opening address while Glenn Boss, a three time Melbourne Cup winning jockey was guest speaker.

It seems no New Zealand members received an accolade at the Awards Dinner.


G2 makes for a better Betta – In June 2006, Betta Electrical was celebrating another store with the opening of Mann’s Betta Electrical Generation 2 shop in Napier (right next to Bond & Bond!).

The G2 format provided the stage for Appnet to showcase supplier brands and fulfil its market potential by continuing to grow whiteware at the same time as developing home entertainment and communications.

“G2 was ‘the store of the future’ which offered a comprehensive range in a pleasant environment, backed by family values, excellent product knowledge and great customer service.”

The Napier team was headed up by Stewart Mann, supported by Steve Devereaux, Dave Wills, Brynn Wood and Richard Lowe.

Stewart is now a Project Manager at The Warehouse, Steve is Batch Manager at Etika Dairies in Hastings, a drinks processing plant, Dave is a qualified builder in Napier, Brynn is still in our industry, servicing for Taranaki Electronics in New Plymouth and Richard is also still with us, at Geoff Small Electronics in Hastings.

“Dirty dozen” a decade ago – June 2006 saw no less than a round dozen movers & shakers. Ryan Lilley was a new Fisher & Paykel Account Manager while Patrick Lee had become Sharp’s Senior Account Manager.

Sydney is home to Ryan these days where he is National Key Account Executive for Electrolux Home Products while Pat is Sales & Marketing Manager at Monaco for Casio and Consumer Electronics.

Robinhood made four announcements: Rob Watson as Australasian Marketing Manager; Katy Merrett as Product Manager; Richard Ferguson as Marketing Assistant; and Brent Little as Technical Services Manager within the marketing team.

We now find Rob at Carters where he is National Sales Manager while Katy is Product & Procurement Manager at Applico. I couldn’t locate Richard or Brent.

Elsewhere, Matthew Stewart has joined Electrolux Home Products as a Territory Manager. Today he is Key Customer Manager at Z Energy.

10 years ago, Murray Reid, the founder of Specialised Sales & Marketing, was embarking on a new path as Sales Agent for Conair NZ, responsible for the South Island and lower North Island. These days, Murray is one of three owners of Serene Industries, marketing specialised heating products with a focus on the trade.

Amanda Gore had been a Key Account Manager at Remington but was promoted to National Sales Manager and the company’s new Territory Manager for the upper North Island was Kristy Weaver.

Amanda (now Amanda Carr), is General Manager at Spectrum Brands and Kristy married Auckland entrepreneur AJ Bertenshaw, but I couldn’t track her down.

Rounding out these positional revelations were Matt Goodin who, after a year-long working holiday, had returned to Panasonic as an Account Manager and Richard Prowse, just appointed Country Manager for Symantec.

Today, Matt plies his skills in New Plymouth as Country Manager for London Fittings & Flanges and Richard is Business Unit Manager Storage with HP Enterprise.


Well, here we are, another issue closer to November’s Wares Awards! In the August magazine I’ll be looking back at the Electronic Appliance Guild’s 1996 conference in Fiji, revisiting the 2001 announcement of Breville NZ as the New Zealand distributor of Philips small appliances and remembering which supplier became the new sponsor of New Zealand Racing in 2006.  

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