Retail legend Raymond Ackerman (92) has died, Pick n Pay, the retail group he founded, announced on Thursday morning.
“With profound sadness we announce that Pick n Pay founder Raymond Ackerman has passed away,” the group said in a short release.
“A visionary entrepreneur, humanitarian and a great South African. Our country has lost a brilliant patriot who always saw a positive future for South Africa.”
Raymond Ackerman grew up in Cape Town, matriculated from the Diocesan College (Bishops), and earned a commerce degree from the University of Cape Town.
He started his career with the retail chain Ackerman’s, which was founded by his father Gus. In 1946, the chain was sold to Greatermans, which started the supermarket group Checkers. Ackerman became CEO of Checkers in 1959, but seven years later was fired following clashes with the Greatermans board.
In 1967, he bought four Cape Town stores named Pick n Pay with the help of investors. The chain quickly expanded, and by 1975, he opened South Africa’s first hypermarket – a supersized 22 000m² store – in Boksburg.
Ackerman also pioneered other retailing firsts, including “no name” food brands and in-store banking. He will be remembered for his continuing fight to deregulate the petrol price.
By the time he stepped down as CEO in 1999, Pick ‘n Pay had a turnover of more than R1 billion. The retail giant currently has a R17 billon market cap, with stores across South Africa and Southern Africa.
He remained chair of the group until 2002, and his son Gareth was appointed in his place.
Raymond, his wife Wendy and their four children – Suzanne, Kathryn, Jonathan and Gareth – have long been committed to various philanthropic causes, including launching a trust which funds educational courses along with community upliftment and entrepreneurial programmes.
In a piece written when he turned 90 in 2021, Ackerman acknowledged that SA had “enormous difficulties”, but he believed it was still a “sound country”.
“Yet we are still standing, and the way in which people have got on with life in the most trying circumstances, and cared for one another along the way, is a source of great hope for the future.”