Rolling back the years – April 1998-2008

By Merv Robertson May 07, 2018 Rolling back the years

What happened in the industry, as seen through the eyes of Wares magazine, 10, 15 and 20 years ago? 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 6 April, 20 years ago, Pakistan tested medium-range missiles capable of hitting India, so we can see the USA-North Korea squabbles are something of an old movie remake – higher stakes now though.

Also a couple of decades back, Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida while here at home the Kiwi Rugby League team beat the Aussies 22:16.


From Rio to Beijing – Back then, Hagemeyer had the Dimplex agency and took the front cover to introduce the new Rio, “the heater that heats outwards, not upwards”.

Inside, Hagemeyer Marketing Manager, Paull Wilson (below left), was confident that Rio’s radiant technology would revolutionise home heating in New Zealand. “This heater is so different, we have made the decision to let the Rio range be the hero in advertising spearheading the Dimplex brand,” he said.

Paull is now New Zealand Channel Manager for Lenovo, the Beijing-based organisation which designs, develops, manufactures and sells personal computers, smart-phones, workstations, servers, electronic storage devices, IT management software, and smart televisions.


The body electric – Ringgrip Pty announced the acquisition of Black & Decker housewares, excluding Dustbuster cleaning products and Snake Lights. Back then, Nigel Denby (photos above right, then and now) was Ringgrip’s National Sales & Marketing Manager.

These days, Nigel is shareholder/manager of electrical wholesaler Active Electrical Suppliers in Henderson.

Staying with things electrical, in the last issue we covered off the launch of IXL into New Zealand two decades ago and in April, Wares revealed the new display stands which had been produced to enhance the bathroom heating products in retail showrooms.

Newly appointed Sales Manager, Paul Lawrence, spoke of the importance of getting these displays into retail: “With the increased consumer awareness of our product range being generated by media advertising, it is important that consumers can go into a store and have a hands-on, live demonstration.”

Paul was the ideal bloke to bring IXL to our market, having spent four years as a Sales Rep in Victoria Australia before coming across the ditch. After two years here, he went back to Geelong as Sales Manager and now has his own company importing LED lighting as well as providing risk management solutions for importers and exporters.


Retravision goes standalone – That same month, Wares broke the news that Retravision had restructured into a completely standalone New Zealand company with the formation of Retravision (NZ) Limited, replacing what had been a division of RTS.

Operations Manager, Leighton Cox, now retired, told Wares that the primary focus would be to provide owner-operators with as much support as possible.

We concluded: “With the corporate chains really starting to flex some muscles, it’s good to see some positive counter-measures from independents, the small guys so important to our industry.”


American legends? – Southcorp Appliances had conducted a major five-month consumer promotion entitled “Two American Legends – Maytag & Jeep”.

Our own industry “legend”, the late Dennis Amiss, Executive Director of the Electronic Appliance Guild, was invited to draw the winner of a brand new Jeep Wrangler (photo below left).

What made this promotion so unique was that each Maytag Rep drove the Jeep for a period of time, using it in conjunction with regional dealers from Brian Jolly’s Christmas promo in the north to the far south where H&J Smith built an American-themed promo around Maytag and Jeep.

Southcorp Marketing Manager, Bevan Baker, was ecstatic at the results. “We believe the trade supported the promotion so strongly, as it left ever dwindling margins intact.”

An unexpected offshoot was that Maytag Corporation in Chicago requested details of the promotion and samples of the point of sale material with a view to copying the Kiwi initiative in the States and elsewhere.

Bevan remains an industry personality with a sales role at Eurotech Design.

Top guys at Te Papa – The newly opened and much celebrated Museum of New Zealand (Te Papa Tongarewa) was 1998’s venue for the fourth annual Melco Club 20 dinner when the country’s “top 20” independents and partners joined the Melco team for a night of celebration.

The show kicked off at 3.30pm with a session covering future new product releases and a peek into the 1998 plans, followed by a guided tour of Te Papa and the gala evening event and awards.

Dealer of the Year (photo above right) was LV Martin & Son and John Lamerton was on hand to accept the spoils.

After rounding out his career with Kitchen Things in Napier, previously Duckworths Appliances, John is these days semi-retired in the Hawkes Bay but is more than a little engaged in a business consultancy project with a London-based partner, heading for a launch of something special here in July. Watch this space!

Style, brains and Braun – This month 20 years ago, Braun New Zealand was “setting the stage for growth” following a year of change which saw firstly direct distribution to the trade followed by integration into the Gillette Group.

1997 had been about setting the foundations while 1998 was predicted to be a year of rapid growth for Braun and its trading partners. The team had recently relocated to the Gillette office and warehouse complex in Manukau and had since opened a second warehouse in Christchurch, an overall investment which would result in better customer service which would be the backbone of the business.

Pictured in our pages were “the faces of Braun”, Paul Rhodes (GM), Matt Ingram, Deborah Higgins, Karen Fry, Reece Ford and David Stannard.

We now find Paul in Melbourne where he is the Founder and Executive Director of Channel T Communications, Matt is CEO at Clasquin in the USA, Deborah is Consumer Division Manager at Sulco and Karen runs Alrona Pet Motel in Upper Hutt.

Reece still lights up the industry as General Manager Sales at De’Longhi and David is a Sky-approved technician running his own business in Paradise, Kerikeri Satellite TV Installations (


More high achievers – The Wares Awards for 1998 were launched in our April issue with three categories up for consideration – Retailer of the Year, Young Retailer of the Year and Service Person of the Year. Who won what would be revealed later in the year…

Staying however with high achieving retailers, for the second issue in a row, the Sunbeam Victa “Excellence in Retailing” spot went to Dunedin and iconic department store, Arthur Barnett.

Sunbeam’s National Sales Manager, Judith MacMillan, made the trip south to accompany local rep, Joan Bishop, in presenting the certificate to Appliance Manager, Trevor Young, and his off-sider, Alistair Jarden.

Established in 1903, Arthur Barnett became Dunedin’s elite shopping destination and was later spoken of in the same sort of reverential terms as the likes of Smith & Caughey or Kirkaldie & Stains.

Arthur Barnett was taken over by the Invercargill-based H&J Smith in 2015 and after three months was rebranded to realign with the wider H&J’s chain.

Joan is world famous in New Zealand for her crockpot/slow cooker cookbooks and, more recently, A Southern Woman’s Kitchen, Alistair is Store Manager of Coupland’s Bakeries on Kaikorai Valley Road, Dunedin, and Trevor is working at Harvey Norman Electrical in Dunedin.

I can’t locate Judith who was evidently with Sunbeam just briefly.


The lone shaker – Jeremy Puttick was the mover & shaker way back in the day, becoming Key Account Manager at Remington after time with Braun in the UK and Robinson Industries and Hagemeyer here.

Jeremy still plies his skills in our industry, as National Sales Manager at Conair New Zealand.



On 7 April 2003, coalition forces captured the city of Baghdad then entered Kirkuk three days later followed by Tikrit. Saddam Hussein’s rein was over and who can forget the footage of his 12m statue, erected just the year before to mark his 65th birthday, being toppled in front of the world’s media?

On the 24th of that month, Statistics New Zealand announced that our population had reached the four million mark (one more to go and we’ll be the right size?) and tragically, our world class rally driver, Possum Bourne, died on 30 April after he was involved in a non-competitive crash 12 days earlier.


Bees’ knees for moms – When I started in retail back in 1964, Russell Hobbs electric kettles were considered top of the range and in April 2003 here they were being promoted in Wares by Salton for Mother’s Day.

Most interesting for me was a reference to the founders of the brand.

It turns out Bill Russell and Peter Hobbs both worked for Morphy Richards, Bill as Chief Development Engineer and Peter as Manager of the company’s branch in South Africa until his return to the UK in 1952.

In that same year, both fell out with senior management, including Donal Morphy, and left to form their own company which they named Russell Hobbs, very quickly developing the world’s first automatic coffee percolator, the CP1.

In 1955 they produced the world-first K1 automatic electric kettle, then the K2 in 1960, a model which would be manufactured for the next 30 years, no less.

In 1962 additional capital was required to increase production and the pair sold the business to Tube Investments (TI).

The brand then bounced around various stables until, in December 2009, Salton Holdings Inc changed its name to Russell Hobbs Inc which was then acquired by Spectrum Brands.

Spectrum Brands here is of course headed up today by Amanda Carr and the business is facing the prospect of changes to the ownership of Varta and its trio of high profile small appliance brands...


Staying with smalls…Deane Westwood made a name for himself in our industry across 15 years at Farmers but back in 2003 he was General Manager of Groupe SEB, heading up a small team responsible for three of the world’s most prominent small appliance brands – Tefal, Krups and Moulinex.

Pictured with Deane in our pages were Tania Milham (Office Manager) and Vanessa Oldbury (Territory Manager).

These days, Deane is the New Zealand Representative for JURA Australia Espresso Pty which was established on 1 January this year so he’s busy rebuilding the brand and establishing a Service Centre, but I can’t find the ladies.

Smiths City smashes its first 85 years – Our JVC Retailer of the Month 15 years ago was Smiths City Colombo Street in Christchurch, the very site on which Henry Cooper Smith started it all, 100 years ago, back in 1918.

Bryan Lamb was the Appliance Department Manager back then and Darryl Taurima Smiths City’s Divisional Product Manager (photo above).

Darryl reflected on the retailer’s tough 12-year road back from receivership: “We made corporate history by trading out of it. We’re proud of that.”

He put the successful bounce-back down to the South Island factor, saying: “Everyone knows Smiths City in the South Island, especially the main store. Customers said to us, ‘We want to support you so we are going to buy from you.’ That’s pretty good loyalty.”

Competition may well have been even more intense in 2003 than it is now with more outlets to choose from by Darryl offered this insight: “Our favourite saying is ‘margin is our friend’. We like margin. Our suppliers know we like margin. It’s good for us and it’s good for them.”

15 years ago, the Colombo Street store was about to undergo a complete reconstruction with all retail going under one roof instead of across two buildings on either side of the street.

It was expected to be bedlam for a while but, by November, Smiths City would boast the biggest ground floor retail store in New Zealand.

Of course the company, along with the rest of Christchurch, would endure the disastrous earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 and you can see how they coped in the “Retail Icon” series on our website.

Bryan is still with Smiths City as Assistant Manager of the flagship Colombo Street store and Darryl, after time at Harvey Norman, Smiths City again and Lighting Direct, is Sales Manager at Audio Distributors, representing hi-fi brands including Anthem, Paradigm, Wharfedale and Martin Logan.

Movers & shakers – Our own Simon Little led off the movers & shakers 15 years ago when he was appointed General Manager of Marketplace Press, established by Bud Little in 1981.

Elsewhere Paul O’Regan, after time with Sunbeam, Nilfisk and Ringgrip Black & Decker, brought plenty of experience to his new role as Area Manager for Parex, covering the central and lower North Island.

At the same time, Brett O’Neill became HWI New Zealand’s Managing Director, having previously been Breville NZ’s GM, Breville having changed its identity to HWI the previous year.

Today, as we know, Simon is now Marketplace Media’s Publisher, Paul has ticked off over 15 years at De’Longhi where he is Central Area Manager and we bid farewell to Brett late last year as he sets out in a new direction as Group Sales Director at Innova Products.

15 years ago, Rachael Ash had just joined BDT in Wellington as Product Manager after a variety of roles with Sony. She then had a couple of years with JVC before relocating to Sydney with them and then spending nine years with Philips.

Now, she’s ANZ Head of Sales & Commercial with BRP, whose website says they “Create innovative ways to move…” and features snowmobiles, off-road vehicles and more...



On 16 April 2008, the Papal Journey of Pope Benedict XVI took him to the USA, just five days after Manchester United had secured its 10th EPL title with a 2-0 win at Wigan Athletic (not to indicate that the Pope delayed his trip to attend the football).

In golf this month 10 years ago, South African Trevor Immerman won The Masters at Augusta National and the number one on the LPGA tour, Lorena Ochoa, took out the Kraft Nabisco Championship to win her second consecutive major.


Thanks mum! – Mother’s Day was again front and centre with Sunbeam on the front cover while inside a DPS showed off an impressive array of small kitchen appliances, all “For the Mothers we love on their special day”.

In her editorial, Pauline Herbst reviewed a recent trip to Chicago where she learned more about “the big boxes that threaten to terrorise New Zealand’s retail landscape”.

Pauline also took in the mighty International Home and Housewares Show and, as NZ GIA Manager, attended the International GIA Awards with the New Zealand winner, Barbara Bicknell of Chocolate Boutique.


150 not (quite) out – Globally, a decade back, Groupe SEB was celebrating its Australasian 150-year jubilee, the New Zealand office having been established in 2002 as a branch of the Australian subsidiary which opened in 1998.

Tefal, Krups and Moulinex were continuing to grow here, growth emanating from product innovation, manufacturing quality and a strong brand portfolio, supported by extensive advertising and marketing campaigns and close relationships with the retail channel.

Groupe SEB was positioned as world leader in small domestic appliances, boasting a worldwide staff of nearly 14,000 and having six of its products sold out of retail every second across the planet.

Groupe SEB pulled out small domestic appliances here some time ago but still does well with its Tefal cookware ranges.


Local boy, done good, comes home – This time 10 years ago, the hunt was on again for a young inventor to be acclaimed as the 8th international Dyson Product Design Awards winner. New Zealand’s representative was Stephen Smith with his Arctic Skin cooling vest for athletes (photo below right).

So impressed were the judging panel that 24 year-old Stephen ended up being employed by Dyson in its state-of-the-art Research & Design Centre in Malmesbury, England on a five-year contract – the first time that a winner had been offered employment at Dyson.

“In my world and in the product design world, Dyson is on a pedestal,” said Stephen at the time, “so I’m both nervous and excited.”

Gaining permanent residency in the UK, he remained at Dyson until late last year, when he returned to New Zealand and is now Functional Leader at Fisher & Paykel Appliances, responsible for a refrigeration R&D team.

More “Kodak Moments” – In May 2007, sales and marketing agency SellAgence (team photo above) had been appointed to look after the sales, marketing and distribution for Kodak New Zealand, responsible for film, one-time-use cameras, batteries, digital cameras, digital photo printers, inkjet paper, digital photo kiosks and photo-lab consumables.

By April 2008, the business could boast a dedicated Kodak team to manage the brand across consumer electronics, grocery, mass market retail, pharmacy, stationery, duty free and the nation-wide group of 80 photographic stores operating under the Photo Express banner.

Jenny Peploe (photo above right) was SellAgence’s CEO at the time and naturally very happy with how things were going.

Today, Jenny is running her own business consultancy around marketing, HR, strategic planning and more, but her own busy life is also geared to removing stress from the busy life of others through her business, The Personal Concierge Company, a one-stop-shop for everything from simple grocery shopping through home repairs and holiday planning to business services and personal care, plus a whole lot more.

Oh yes, she’s also a “puppy walker” for guide dogs (

Powerful women – A supplier panel comprising only women bosses addressed a variety of industry issues under the heading, “Women in power”.

Under the chair of Wares’ Editor, Pauline Herbst, we had Meech Aspden (CEO of Philips), Kim Conner (GM of Consumer Imaging Products at Canon), Felicity Herron (GM of Dick Smith Electronics), Christine Johnston (GM of Sunbeam) and, last but by no means least, Jan Nicol (MD at Sharp).

The final topic for discussion was the so-called “glass ceiling” – was it a non-issue in New Zealand, given each participant figured large in our industry and the Prime Minister was a woman?

Space precludes us from reporting in-depth on the chat but one response to the final question can be left hanging for you to debate: “This is a blokey industry and business deals are done over a beer or a Scotch in a bar as opposed to a glass of Chardonnay and a canapé.”

Now, who would say a thing like that?

Meech is now Director of Group Fitness for Pure Group International in Hong Kong, Kim is CEO at Canon and Jan is still Managing Director at Sharp Corporation.

In 2009, Felicity went back to Australia where she is an Executive General Manager at Toll Group while Christine is GM of the Institute of Refrigeration, Heating & Air Conditioning Engineers (IRHACE), heading up four organisations representing those groups, a role she describes as “quite political”.

The only show in town? – In April 2008, in retail land, Harvey Norman seems to have been the only show in town. Take that year’s Harvey Norman Electrical Charity Classic golf tournament at the Lakes Resort in Pauanui (photos above).

All proceeds from the charity auction ($120,000 in all!) went to Cure Kids. Tane Poulson was Harvey’s National Product Manager and he was rapt with how the day turned out.

In terms of sport, the Ambrose format was used for scoring and, by fair means or foul, Radio Network came out on top with PPS Print and Philips filling out the minor podium spots.

10 years later, we find Tane has “jumped the fence” having recently become General Manager Housewares at Monaco Corporation.

Pioneering in New Plymouth – It was Harvey Norman again, the New Plymouth store to be specific (photo above), that featured in our April 2008 Energy Star Focus on Retail segment.

New Plymouth was one of the first formal settlements in New Zealand, the first settlers arriving in 1841 aboard the William Bryan, so there’s a pioneering spirit in the air.

Harvey Norman was also something of a retail pioneer when Nigel Little set up Harvey Norman Electrical in New Plymouth in December 2001, in the seemingly obscure location of Waiwahkaiho Valley, 7km away from the CBD.

Nigel’s site selection however proved to be visionary – within four years, the store would be accompanied by most of the other major retailers and today the area is a major retail destination.

In 2008 Foley Moors was Electrical Proprietor and he’d saved no less than 10,000 Watts of energy in one fell swoop, replacing the neon signs running around the entire electrical department with non-lit signage.

Today, Foley’s back doing what he started out doing when he entered retail 30-odd years ago, selling musical instruments. Back then, he joined Farmers and now he’s Manager of Music Works in New Plymouth.

For his part, Nigel is battling some health issues which he hopes to put behind him shortly but is also involved in a consultative capacity in a substantial industry project – of which more news soon...

Movers & shakers – 10 years ago, the afore-mentioned Tane Paulson became Harvey Norman’s National Product Manager after eight years in the industry, including time at Panasonic.

Still with Harvey Norman, Chris Morris relocated from the Lower Hutt store to become Audio Visual Product Manager, Nick Bouman shifted from Christchurch to replace Pat Neville as Whiteware Product Manager and Pat moved from majors to smalls as Product Manager.

Today, Chris is Electrical Proprietor at Harvey Norman in Manukau while Nick is in a similar position at Mt Roskill.

Pat is National Sales Manager of Comfort & Major Appliances at De’Longhi [a more fitting title we could not imagine – Ed.].

A decade back at Groupe SEB, Darryl Brown became Country Manager while Kellie Isaacs was promoted from Territory Manager role to National Account Manager, looking after ACL, Noel Leeming, Harvey Norman and Farmers.

10 years on, Darryl is still in the hot seat and Kellie is now Sales & Marketing Manager at Gellert Nurseries in Drury, south of Auckland.

Back in the day, over at BSH, Beata Kwiatkowska had joined the Kiwi BSH team from the Munich headquarters in 2008.

The temporary assignment would see her here for three months as part of her marketing training before she headed off back home to continue her career.


And that’s it for April. Join me in June for more nostalgia including some iconic names at an iconic Auckland retail chain, coverage of the Appliance Network conference of 2003 and the how none other than 1OO% Barrell’s in Whangarei had been busy saving their energy...

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