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Image Credit: Camberwell Electrics

The Era of Evolution

Dubbed a platinum anniversary, the span of 70 years has the power to see a totally new world evolve right in front of one’s eyes. And it is during these past seven decades where some truly remarkable technological advances have stretched the appearance, form and function of kitchen appliances to heights well beyond expectations. In this reminiscent reflection of technology gone by and look ahead at the wonders still to come, Bethany Hayes sits down with two of Melbourne’s most credible kitchen professionals from Camberwell Electrics Designer Appliances.

Having long adorned Camberwell’s bustling, leafy streets, Camberwell Electrics Designer Appliances continues its legacy as one of Melbourne’s oldest and most trusted electrical retailers Victoria-wide – a legacy now spanning 70 years. In conversation with the company’s digital manager; Kevin Collins and general manager; Rob Hoorn, Melbourne Kitchen + Bathroom Design discusses the myriad ways in which kitchen technology has evolved over the past seven decades of service, and exactly what lies ahead within this, the heart of the home.

One For Nostalgia

Today, technology has the power to enhance and streamline almost every aspect of modern living. Sleek, convenient and user-friendly at its very core, the technology and appliances adorning homes and hitting shelves in stores today is ready and waiting to make your necessary tasks that little bit easier. For Collins and Hoorn, whose careers have allowed them to witness incredible changes throughout almost every aspect of technology, it’s perhaps the transition to sleeker, less bulky appearances, multi-function abilities and a ‘replacement’ customer mindset that have been among most notable changes throughout the years.

Whether thoughts of the past appliances conjure up images of bar heaters searing your skin or a sizeable oven with the most prominent of knobs, appliances of the past being “bigger and bulkier” is one thing that is certainly true, along with them having some serious lifespan. “[Appliances back then] were a lot more engineered to last,” Collins flags. “We’ve got people coming in now that are older, and who have lived in the area and been buying from this store for literally 50 plus years,” he adds. While these tried-and-true customers may not be able to nab the exact same model of appliance they could all those years ago, it’s the service that often keeps them coming back. “Be aware it’s not the same brand that you bought then!” he tells customers.

Something particular notable for both Collins and Hoorn, is how cheaply appliances – particularly imports across chain supermarkets, which are available for as little as $49 – are being sold for. But this low price doesn’t begin to cover the cost of the metal and material used to create it, nor the workers who crafted it, and is something the experts have noted as being

problematic. “Because [customers] are demanding appliances cheaper, it drives the price down,” Collins notes, flagging the often-detrimental nature this has to the quality of the appliance. “People will often think to themselves; I will buy that cheap one, and if it breaks down in three years’ time, I’ll just throw it out and get another one,” Hoorn affirms.

Buy and Replace

Enter, the era of the replacement. With appliances being produced for a cheaper price and with a significantly smaller lifespan, many of them need to be replaced significantly faster than appliances of the past. “All manufacturers used to have this within their business – people who were trained to fix their appliances,” says Hoorn. “But as appliances have gotten cheaper to produce, it didn’t justify having a group of people to repair them,” he further adds. “Then there [became] a replacement market where things were just thrown out.”

While in the past, any issues with your appliances warranted a repair from an expert, today, the value of the specific issue within the appliance – such as the control board – isn’t worth replacing, especially when an entire new version of the same appliance can take its place for the same cost. “Back in the day, if there was something wrong with your car, you lifted up the bonnet and had half a chance of fixing it,” Hoorn remarks. “If you had a flat battery, you’d jump start it with [a neighbour’s] leads,” adds Collins.

This replacement era is something that the pair have noticed as almost removing the middle market, or middle range options for technology; with homeowners frequently going for either the cheap option or splurging on something they hope to last. “One of the big things that I’ve noticed in the past ten years is that there used to be a fairly broad spectrum of people wanting an entry-point product,” says Hoorn. “Whereas [nowadays] I’ve noticed that the middle market has stopped. You’ve got this thing where people will buy an $899 55-inch TV, or they will buy the $4,000 TV.”

And why is this? The expert flags that it’s the mindset of a technology either being low-priced enough to replace quickly or being selected as a luxurious investment to last. “They justify the cheaper end because it’s cheap enough for them to throw out in three- or four-years’

time,” Hoorn says. “Or you’ve got the choice of going to the top of the range that will last ten to 12 years.” For homeowners who want to get their money’s worth, Collins offers the clever hack of looking at previous, but still reasonably new models – you’ll get the quality of craftsmanship and the modern functionality too, but at a more reasonable price point. “Your better bang for buck is buying last year’s model!”

Seven Decades of Evolution

Much like the famous release of the new Apple product each year, Collins speaks to the idea of technology being on a consistent cycle of release – and one that explains why appliances are so regularly replaced. “They used to call it the ‘technology loop’, which spans every 18 months,” the digital manager affirms. “A classic example is 5G on phones,” he continues. “Software developers know that people are now going to watch far more video content, and music is [also] far more accessible. That brings in the loop.”

While the transition of big, bulky appliances to sleek, streamlined appliances can look slow from afar, their result is directly reflected in market demand. With appliances no longer the entire focal point of a living or dining room, the experts explain that the slicker and more discreet appearance of technology and appliances seen today has indeed made them more user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing. “When the first TVs came out, you bought a TV in a cabinet,” Hoorn details. “It sat as a major part in your living room, and now they are as flat as anything.” This slick, refined appearance is something Collins coins as “the minimalist look” and it’s an increasingly popular way to remove clutter for your kitchen or living space – especially if you are choosing to integrate your appliances throughout the area. Such appliances are “totally hidden with very clean lines” – think no buttons, no knobs and nothing obtrusive. “It makes a huge difference to the kitchen, and just streamlines it,” Hoorn adds.

Craftmanship and Quality

Having borne witness to technology changes before their very eyes, Collins and Hoorn have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to how appliances have kept up, and aptly changed with the times. For the humble fridge, developments can be seen from door cooling

functions, twin motors, variable zones, water and ice options, blue light technology and even the addition of wi-fi! And while these functions are definitely seen as a luxury more than a necessity, their purpose truly has enhanced how long food lasts, and how fresh it stays. “It’s like a crisper drawer where you control the humidity,” Hoorn says of variable temperature zones. “Things like carrots, for example, will last six times longer. You have the ability to control the humidity.”

When it comes to the oven, Collins flags the development of pyrolytic and steam ovens as being notable advancements, alongside “the shape of the open cavity, airflow, door technology” and even recipe programmes. “There’s been a lot of tries, but really it all comes back down to how the oven performs, and what it looks like,” Hoorn affirms. The washing machine is a staple to any family home, with its cold water and spin technology advancements making an incredible difference to the quality of the clean – and keeping your delicates all in one piece! But this certainly wasn’t always a push button experience, and is a direct result of the heights technology has, and will continue to reach. “My mother had this big stick … she would put all the boiling water into a boiling trough [and stir it around] – that’s how she did the washing. And then the washing machine – wow did that change everything!”

If platinum’s resistance to tarnish and innate strength are just some of its merits, then it’s little wonder why the past 70 years of knowledge from Camberwell Electrics Designer Appliances has solidified a trusted reputation. Serving as a catalyst for its customers, this personal service is something that both Collins and Hoorn remark as making an incredible difference and has seen them through the vast technological updates of the past seven decades. “In Melbourne, people have been here all of their lives … the families, the extended families,” Collins says. “[I’ve had customers tell me] ‘we only bought from you because my wife’s grandparents bought all their stuff from you. They convinced me that you guys are the way to go’,” Hoorn recalls. “That to me, summarises why we’ve lasted 70 years.”

“Some of our sales staff we’ve had, have been there long enough to remember customers of 15 years ago,” Collins adds. “It comes down to customer service, that’s the difference people are looking for,” he continues. “That is the uniqueness of this place … it’s a fascinating story.”

Image Credits: Camberwell Electrics