Pick n Pay Father of the industry
Last week we paid tribute to Raymond Ackerman, the father of modern grocery retail in South Africa. Today we look at some of the innovations he brought to the industry – although the modest man did not see himself as an innovator. “There wasn’t a lot of original thinking, but I am a good learner. I learned from American supermarkets and Carrefour in France,” he said. But he brought us longer trading hours – including Sunday shopping. The sixty-day payment schedule for suppliers, who moaned a bit even as they grew with the Pick n Pay business, which was able this way to offer better value to punters. Banking services in store. He employed the first black manager of a grocery store, in Rondebosch, and was one of the first business leaders to recognise trade unions. He waged relentless campaigns against monopolies and price fixing, fighting cartels in various sectors, including bread, petrol, and cigarettes. He opened South Africa’s first hypermarket, in Boksburg in 1975. No career of this length is without its mistakes; Ackerman failed twice to enter the Australian market – although he’s hardly alone in that – and passed up the opportunity to buy both Checkers and OK Bazaars. While a lifelong fan of centralised distribution, he was reluctant to commit to investing in it for years, and the business had to play catch up. But on his death Pick n Pay is turning over in excess of R105bn annually, and the Group operates more than 2,200 stores in eight countries.
Comment: At the end of the day, he is remembered as a transformative and principled business leader, a philanthropist, and all-round mensch. Hamba Kahle, Chairman Ackerman.