Rolling back the Years: April 1996-2006

By Merv Robertson May 05, 2016 Rolling back the years

Wares has been faithfully keeping tabs on the industry for a while now. So, what happened 10, 15 and 20 years ago this month? 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.


It was this month 20 years ago when Martin Bryant went mad and killed 35 people at Tasmania’s Port Arthur tourist site.

Ironically, two low budget movies had been released earlier in the month, a thriller called Bang and a comedy called Getting Away with Murder.

In sport, the great Australian golfer Greg Norman had led the US Masters after each of the first three rounds but, famously, shot five bogeys and two doubles in the final round to hand Nick Faldo the title by five. New Zealand’s Frank Nobilo, now a top golf commentator in the States, finished 4th at five under the card.


Show us your Dimplex – New Dimplex Delta oil heaters were on Wares’ cover in April 1996. Back then Dimplex was marketed by Robinson Industries, today it’s a formative part of the global Glen Dimplex group

The Commerce Commission with its Fair Trading Act and Consumer Guarantees Act took up much of the editorial and we were reminded that Noel Leeming had been done on four charges of misleading advertising.

It was also rumoured that the Commerce Commission was investigating the practice of recommended retail pricing.


F&P starts netball relationship – 20 years back, Fisher & Paykel was in the news as the new sponsor for Netball New Zealand and MD, Gary Paykel, and Netball NZ’s President, Christine Archer, signed off the deal.

F&P would go on to support the code, from grassroots community netball right through to the Silver Ferns, for 18 years – sports fans nationwide will no doubt recall the Fisher & Paykel International Series during that time.

New World now fills that role.


Award’s on the move – Award Appliances in Auckland first moved to 18 Piermark Drive on the North Shore 20 years ago when growth dictated that a much larger warehouse was required.

Geoffrey Cocks was MD back then: “This significant investment will ensure that we are well positioned to improve our overall service to trade customers and facilitate the growth expected from, in particular, the Asko and Morphy Richards brands.”

Guess what? At 82 years of age, Geoff still turns up on a day to day basis. He’s helping out administratively, but works short hours on Wednesday, which is reserved for golf. His son, Richard, runs the company now.

Parmco’s posh premises – Also on the move in April 1996 was Parmco, whose new purpose-built home in Mount Wellington comprised a 24,000 ft2 warehouse and an 8,000ft2 office/showroom/technical area.

Staff, retail guests and supplier reps from Italy and the USA celebrated the opening at which Director Roger Battersby said they were making life both easier and less expensive at the retail end. Parmco brands back then included NEFF and Turbo and a new range of Turbo ovens and cooktops were launched on the day.

Parmco still operates from the same building and Roger remains with the company as Managing Director.

After some years away, BSH brand NEFF has recently been relaunched here through Kitchen Things and rumour has it that Turbo may also return at some stage.


“European Flair, New Zealand Practicality” – That was the catch cry in an ad for the new Westinghouse stainless steel ovens. At the Auckland launch, Product Manager John Henley said that in the 1995/96 year, 22,000 ovens had been sold compared to 10,000 in 1991/92. He added that distributor Simpson Appliances was committed to a greater focus on the Westinghouse brand in 1996.

John himself has seen many changes to the group during the 20 years following that Wares article including the transition from Email to Electrolux.

In 1999 he crossed the ditch and became National Sales Manager with brands comprising around half the company’s turnover before coming home nearly a decade later as Director in New Zealand and subsequently taking up a Regional role in Singapore.

He is now Sydney-based as Category Manager – Home Comfort (aircon & hot water).

Electrolux: 20 years in (retail) floor care – In the course of this series I am constantly reminded of people, brands, products and happenings from back in the day, many long forgotten – which is why we continue to roll back the years, so they’re not.

Here’s a surprise. Most of our readers would assume that Electrolux vacuums have been around nearly forever and they would be right, but in fact they have only been available through retailers since April 1996!

For the preceding 70 years they could be bought only from door-to-door salesmen selling on commission. The brand marketed into retail by Electrolux up to that time was Husqvarna and from my memory that was the market leader

But 20 years ago, Electrolux NZ’s Deputy MD, Stewart Stein, described the response to the Electrolux retail launch proposals as most encouraging.

Our photo from April 1996 shows Electrolux Marketing Manager, Mark White, alongside Husqvarna Agencies’ Divisional Manager, Catherine Carrington.

The first Electrolux range offered into retail was Excellio featuring “High technology air filters which meet hospital standards and have been recognised overseas as a boon for allergy and asthma sufferers”.

With the Electrolux brand going into retail alongside Husqvarna, the company manufactured the Lux brand which continued as a “door to door” product through independent sales agents for a few years. Husqvarna was withdrawn from the market as a floor care brand around 1999.

Stewart Stein retired to Blenheim in 1999 and is now a backup driver for Blenheim Shuttles, which is owned by his daughter and son in law.

Cath Carrington left Electrolux in 2000 and is now a Field Officer for Stroke Foundation New Zealand in the Central Region. Does anyone know what Mark’s up to?

When Duckworths dug deep – It used to be that one in three Hawkes Bay consumers bought their appliances from Duckworths (see Wares’ Retail Icon in August 2011). Two decades ago, Wares dug into the recent history of this outstanding retailer, by then running stores in Napier, Hastings and Onekawa.

To rewind slightly, when Noel Leeming came to town in 1992, things had changed. Managing Director Rob Duckworth reflected at the time: “We didn’t have the number one shop anymore,” he lamented. A rethink was needed.

Long term strategic plans were put in place resulting in a Mega Store concept opening in November 1993 in Thackerey Street Napier.

Duckworths Retravision and Duckworths Furniture Court meant the company was able to maximise its considerable customer base by offering a substantially wider range of products, including computers and furniture.

Back then Rob told Wares: “It was designed by us, for us and it’s fantastic to work out of.”

These days, Rob is flat tack doing property development, but still manages time to hit a few golf balls and haul in the odd trout.


Mover & shakers 20 years ago – Firstly we met Rebecca Adams who had joined Robinson Industries as Product Manager for Dimplex and Rotec and then Nicola Legge who was appointed Trade Marketing Manager at Simpson Appliances.

Rebecca (now Rebecca Chapman) is at Fonterra now, as GM Fonterra Way of Marketing, and Nicola is Research Director at Ipsos, one of the three largest market research companies on the planet.



On 1 April 2001 the Netherlands became the world’s first country to legalise same sex marriage.

A week later, Tiger Woods donned the Green Jacket having won the US Masters for the second time when he held off David Duval by two strokes. This marked the completion of the “Tiger Slam” with Woods holding all four Major titles.

Sadly at home, notable Kiwis to pass away were activist, writer and historian Elsie Locke, actress Nyree Dawn Porter (Forsyte Saga etc), world class cricketer Bert Sutcliffe and MP Trevor de Cleene who had resigned from Labour to help create Act and then joined National.


Side by side by Whirlpool – “Sales Odyssey 2001” headlined the April magazine’s cover, Whirlpool’s announcement that the new side-by-side fridge freezer had arrived.

15 years ago, LM Rankine Trading was still aggressively pushing the LG cause and capitalised on the high profile LG entry in the BT Global Challenge around the world yacht race by taking some dealers out for a sail on Wellington Harbour, including Michael Fitzpatrick, Warren Brewin, Nicholas Ramsdale, Paul Wynne, Craig Douglas, Ted Holland, Eddie Law, Bryce Purdy and the late Wayne Burton.


Thomson – who? – A decade and a half ago, Melco, which we now know as BDT, had just secured the New Zealand distributorship for Thomson TVs and held a major dealer release at Auckland’s Ericsson Stadium.

The range included the Thomson Life Series and the highly acclaimed Scenium product. Life sets were vividly coloured 10” and 14” models and their unique styling plus AC/DC capability helped secure showroom space in a cluttered market. Scenium on the other hand, was the flagship with the widescreen versions described as “breathtaking”.

Darren Lawson was Sales Manager back then and said: “Thomson is the only brand that can possibly match the firepower of Sony, Philips and Panasonic on an international scale.” Big call! Today he is a Franchise Owner at Mike Pero Mortgages.

Thomson by the way was and is a major French operation. Now 120 years old, the brand is still active, particularly in Europe and on its home turf.


From Email to Electrolux – On the whiteware scene there was much written about Electrolux, firstly around the takeover of Email Appliances, the deal being signed off in Sydney. Originally owned by Scott Brothers producing Atlas ranges, Email’s historic Christchurch plant also featured.

Trevor Carroll was appointed Managing Director of Electrolux Products Pty and Electrolux Home Products (NZ), which became fully owned subsidiaries of Electrolux Group. Trevor said at the time that the consolidations would “result in significant cost savings and will ensure we are able to compete on price.”

A double page spread hailed the transformation from Email to Electrolux, not missing the opportunity to reinforce the fact that Electrolux Group was “The world’s largest producer of powered appliances for kitchen, cleaning and outdoor use.”

I was in touch with Trevor recently and he is a Non-Executive Director of The Good Guys, based in Sydney.


Crowing about smalls – In smalls 15 years ago, Philips was rightly crowing about selling its 200 millionth iron. “Worth celebrating?” Philips asked, and then answered its own question with “We think so”.

Nilfisk had also just made its entry into the small, low-end vacuum cleaner segment with a model called Bubbles which had 1400w max power, a steel telescopic wand and a 1.7 litre dust bag. Suction power at the end of the tube was a massive 280w. Wow.


Heathcote’s high achievers – Hamilton’s Heathcote Appliances 100% was the retail star, taking out the magazine’s regular Sunbeam Award for Excellence in Retailing.

The destination store of 28,000ft2 employed 33 highly trained staff including Manager Murray Arneston and Kathy Patchett, who was Small Appliances Department Manager.

Murray was justifiably proud of his team: “When we employ staff, we only choose high calibre people,” he said. “We make sure we have a broad spectrum of ages, both male and female and they undergo intensive training which is ongoing. We are a little different when we hire. Our staff have to be people who are interested in, and have a passion for appliance retailing.”

Neither Murray nor Kathy are still with the company but Grant Heathcote remembers the occasion well and reports that both he and the business are thriving in their new “independence” travelling under their own banner.

Robinson, industrious – Considerable emphasis was quite rightly placed on the retirement of one of our most respected movers & shakers, Noel Robinson, now of course Sir Noel, founder of Robinson Industries.

Sir Noel had been involved in the industry for 39 years and in our 2001 article we described him as “a ground breaker who forged alliances, developed and imported product and built a multi-million dollar business through strategic planning and nerves of steel.”

He told Wares at the time: “I have many fond memories and made many lifelong friends right from my early days as an Engineering Cadet at Fisher & Paykel.”

There is heaps we could say about Sir Noel’s busy life today, but for the past three years he has been virtually full time as Chairman of the trust responsible for the Vector Wero Whitewater Park development.

“Wero” being the Maori word for “challenge”, it’s right next door to the Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau City – another of his pet projects – and the recently opened, state-of-the-art Sir Noel Robinson Conference Centre.

“Yes, this is me, it’s my project,” he says, “and when the Prime Minister opens Wero on 25 April, it will be the biggest and best such centre in the world, managed by our Olympic kayak legend, Ian Fergusson.”

Sir Noel spent two weeks in Antarctica last November, a fortnight he describes as “The best travel experience of my life.”

(By the way Sir Noel was the subject of December 2010’s “Where are they now?” slot.)


F&P, same people better result – Fisher & Paykel chose an unusual way of advising the trade that changes were afoot with a full page ad headed “Same faces. New positions. Same focus...”

The stars of the show were Vaughan Simon, Eamon Kenny and Stephen Bruce with members of the Northern & Southern regional teams also listed.

These days we find both Vaughan and Eamon retired in Auckland but Stephen is still with F&P, marketing in the business to business sector.



On 6 April, PM Helen Clarke and China’s Premier, Wen Jiabao, met and agreed to aim for a Free Trade Agreement between our two countries within two years. We got there in the end.

On the 20th of the month 10 years ago, Iran and Russia announced a joint Uranium enrichment deal on Russian soil but the agreement fizzled just days later when Iran refused to move all its activity to Russia...


Mother’s Day a decade back – In the April issue a decade ago, Mother’s Day was all over the magazine, including the alluring cover which invited us to “Say it with Sunbeam”. Sunbeam continued its theme inside with electric blankets, a foot spa, mixers, lady shavers and coffee makers.

Salton also got in on the act with its famed George Foreman range, the Roomba robotic vac and a swag of Russell Hobbs portable appliances, all “As seen on TV!”.

Krups was next cab off the rank with feature-packed Espresseria coffee makers, Braun (“Epilation titillation!” back then through SellAgence) chimed in with three new epilators and Tefal was very impressive, offering products for both steam cleaning and steam cooking.

Other brands were included but that’s a pretty good indication that Mum’s big day was once again a catalyst for heavy commercialisation. SellAgence we believe folded in 2009. Tefal is of course still a Groupe SEB brand but pulled out of the New Zealand smalls market a couple of years back.

More bubs, more suds – Westinghouse was running an innovative promotion for its 9.5kg capacity (NZ’s largest!) direct drive top loading washing machine. Called “Suds for Bubs”, the promo targeted multiple birth families that, it was reported, put through twice as much washing as regular families with only half the time to do it in.

Through the year, five families celebrating multiple birth events could win one of these new machines and Wares reported that the McLeod triplets of Gisborne were the first winners. Mum, Biddy McLeod, was rapt with her windfall, as you might imagine.

“With the arrival of triplets, there is always laundry in some state surrounding me,” she remarked. “Two or three loads a day takes about seven hours a week, conservatively to the two to three it took before their arrival. This Westinghouse is a real godsend and will make a huge difference.”


Sucking it up in floor care – 2006 was Nilfisk’s centenary year and the programme was gaining momentum with a photographic timeline starting from the establishment of Fisker & Nielsen in 1906 and the original Nilfisk vacuum cleaner, to the legendary GA70s and 80s, to the “new look” GM200 Series of 1992, the revolutionary Backuum back pack vac in 1998 and the Nilfisk Extreme which had just been launched.

That same month a decade back, Soren Sorensen, Nilfisk’s Global GM of Consumer Business was visiting New Zealand as part of his Oceania trip to mark the brand’s Centenary Year. Today, 10 years on, Soren is Commercial Director at Kompan A/S, one of the world’s leading playground designers and manufacturers.


Thinking of you – Over at Electrolux Home Products, Marketing Manager Rosalie Davison was showing off the Swedish giant’s newly adopted tagline.

“Thinking of you” highlighted the company’s re-energised customer focus. Rosalie explained at the time: “Consumer insight is the heart and the mind of Electrolux’s innovation process and the new tagline reflects this.”

With a career path that took her through Email Appliances, Westinghouse and Electrolux, and Appliance Connexion, Rosalie is now Group Marketing Manager with Mammoth Insulation and Smart Energy Solutions, businesses of InZone Industries.


Before Pudney there was Lee – Back in 1954, Bill Lee founded a company in Wellington called William H Lee Ltd. He was joined by John Pudney, who bought the business outright in late 1971, changing the name to Pudney & Lee.

Today, under the long-time leadership of John’s son, Graham Pudney, the business is still a leading supplier to our industry and a regular recipient of honours at the Wares Awards.

Today, among its current portfolio of brands, Philips headphones are a bit of a star, but back then in April 2006 the firm was headlining Koss headphones. Pudney & Lee swapped its relationship with the Milwaukee headphone maker the following year for one with the Dutch brand.


End of an era for BOP? – In retail territory, it was the end of an era in the Bay of Plenty. Christchurch-based Smiths City had just completed the takeover of Meikles, which had six Retravision outlets, the flagship being a mega department store in Whakatane.

Meikles had been a Whakatane icon since John Meikle founded the business in 1954. At the same time, Smiths announced that they had Council consent to construct a purpose-built destination store in Palmerston North, the first in the North Island to carry the Smiths City brand.

Briscoes meanwhile had bounced back from “a couple of years in the retail wilderness”, posting an audited net profit after tax of $25.22m.

Dick does Ashburton – Dick Smith Electronics was still well and truly on the move a decade past with the opening of a New Ashburton store, its 62nd branch.

Stu Meadows was New Zealand GM at the time: “With more than 25,000 people living in the Ashburton District, it made sense to site a full company store in the town.” Before this, the nearest Dick Smith was in either Timaru or Christchurch, both over an hour’s drive away.

Today, Stu (seen above, with fish!) keeps in touch with the industry via Wares magazine and also receives the Hardware Journal courtesy of his co-ownership of Tollesbury Enterprises, an importer & distributor, mainly supplying the hardware industry.


H&S does Botany – Hill & Stewart Botany Downs was April 2006’s “Focus on Retail”, sponsored by Direct Imports. Kevin Roberts, Hill & Stewart’s Ops Manager, shared the H&S vision “to be a solution to customers as opposed to just selling product.”

His buyers had worked hard to put a better range of product into the market, including PCs that were actually multi-media centres with other plans to make the most of the huge growth back then in personal audio and digital cameras.

Ain’t that the truth – but now all that stuff fits in the palm of your hand. We call it “my phone”.


10 years of movers & shakers – There were movers & shakers aplenty 10 years ago – more than a dozen people had either just joined the industry or changed roles so, big breath, let’s do this.

In April 2006, Wares noted that John Milford (the subject of June 2015’s “Where are they now?”) was back on the local scene as MD of Wellington’s iconic Kirkaldie & Stains. He was formerly with Farmers and was Chief Executive of Pacific Retail Group before joining Repco Australia. Of course “Kirks” closed and reopened as David Jones and John is Chief Executive at the Wellington Chamber of Commerce.

Direct Imports made three appointments: Matt Rossiter joined as Northern Sales Representative from the fitness industry; Adam Turner became National Account Manager after several years with the company; and Clinton Russell was appointed Account Manager, coming over from AKA Technology.

Matt now plies his skills as a Customs Agent for DHL Express, Adam is still with Direct Imports as National Sales Manager Consumer Electronics and Clinton is across the ditch as Marketing Manager at Convoy International.

In 2001, Reece Ford left Gillette for DéLonghi. Five years later, Wares was reporting his elevation to National Sales Manager. He’s still at DéLonghi, as General Manager Sales, and doing a fine job.

10 years ago, SellAgence announced Leilani Cowie-Fuimaono as Electrical/Commercial Account Manager after successfully marketing Braun, Duracell and Oral-B brands and Ralica Andreeva as Marketing Manager for Braun and Duracell.

Leilani (now Leilani Driessen) is a stay-at-home mum to three children but I couldn’t locate Ralica.


With a business-to-business sales background, Scott Cate arrived at Sharp Corporation in the National Sales Manager’s role while Matthew Bevan, after four years as a National Account Manager, became directly responsible for liaison with key customers at Head Office Level.

Scott is now General Manager Consumer Technologies at Sharp and Matt is also still with the company, now in the National Sales Manager’s chair.

Bianca Speller became Marketing Manager for Electrolux Floorcare & Small Appliances, Australasia following John Mahar’s elevation to MD and Michelle Hallè moved to Electrolux Home Products as Sales Coordinator.

Alan Dalton took up the position of NZ Sales & Business Manager at Electrolux Floorcare & Small Appliances after a year as Strategic Business Manager at Electrolux Home Products. Prior to that Alan was with Award Appliances and Whirlpool.

Today Alan is General Manager Electrolux Small Appliances, Bianca is Account Director, Customer Experience Management for Potentiate in Melbourne, John is Managing Director of Camfil Australia (manufacturers of air filters and clean air solutions) in Sydney and Michelle, well I don’t know where she is.

Rounding off this section, we read of Remington Products moving house with Nicki Treeves, Ian Adams, Heidi Hafkamp, Alex Robbie, Amanda Gore, Zakirah Nazif and Darlene Rutledge in residence.

Ian and Heidi are still firmly in the Remington camp, as Technician and Office Administration Manager at Spectrum Brands where Amanda (now Amanda Carr) is General Manager.

Alex Robbie now imports spa pool motors, Nicki is now Nicki Smith and works at Electrolux Home Products in the South Island and Darlene moved back to Perth. Zakirah went to Afghanistan to marry and then returned here as I understand.


Phew that’s a bevy of names, some of which are familiar today, some less so!

But time is flying so, looking forward to the next “Rolling back the Years” in Wares’ June issue, we will be revisiting a profile on the late, and (I say) great Dennis Amiss in 1996 and we take a look at who was running Monaco Corp back in 2001 (23 years after the company was established).

From 2006 we read about the much vaunted launch of Dick Smith Power House. Hailed at the time as “A new era in consumer electronics retailing in New Zealand”, even ignoring the brand’s current fate, ill-fated is the term which comes to mind…

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