It is with profound sadness that we announce the death at the age of 92 of visionary South African, and founder of Pick n Pay, Raymond Ackerman. He is survived by his wife, Wendy, children Gareth, Kathy, Suzanne, and Jonathan, his 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Raymond Ackerman founded Pick n Pay in 1967 along with Wendy after buying four stores in Cape Town. From the outset, he lived by the core values that the customer is queen, that we must treat others as we would wish to be treated, and that doing good is good business. These values have guided the business for over 56 years, and today the Pick n Pay Group serves millions of customers in more than 2,000 stores across South Africa and seven other African countries. His business philosophy was underpinned by the “four legs of the table” (Administration, Social responsibility and Marketing, People, and Merchandise, with the customer on top) first introduced to Ackerman by Bernard Trujillo in the US.
He came from a retailing family with his father having founded Ackermans after World War 1.
From the very beginning, Raymond Ackerman was dedicated to giving customers the best possible products, the best possible value, and the best possible service in his stores. He would stop and ask customers walking home with shopping bags from rival stores why they had not shopped at Pick n Pay.
People quickly learned that they could always rely on Raymond Ackerman and Pick n Pay to be on the customer’s side, for example in his celebrated battles against price regulations which forced people to pay more than they should for their groceries. In 1986, Pick n Pay mounted a successful court challenge against the government’s prohibition of a petrol coupon scheme which gave customers grocery discount coupons with petrol purchases. Pick n Pay fought over 26 rounds with the government on petrol price cutting and lost each time.
However, Raymond Ackerman was about much more than shopping. He was a compassionate employer and a committed philanthropist. Even in the1960s, he was determined to promote all employees to managerial positions, in defiance of apartheid laws which forbade it.
By the end of the 1970s, he had become active in the newly-established Urban Foundation, becoming a prominent champion of equal opportunity policies and merit-based salaries and wages, and increasingly critical of government’s homelands policy, the Group Areas Act and Job Reservation. But he was also critical of sanctions, in the belief that they destroyed jobs and deepened poverty.
In 1989, Raymond Ackerman and a group of businessmen met newly appointed President FW de Klerk in Pick n Pay’s Cape Town office. The group told De Klerk that Nelson Mandela should be released as soon as possible, and that apartheid legislation should be scrapped.
Ackerman met Nelson Mandela on numerous occasions after his release, and the two established a warm relationship.
Ackerman was the driving force behind the bid to bring the 2004 Olympic Games to Cape Town, dedicating considerable energy and funding to the initiative.
In 2004, he established the Raymond Ackerman Academy for Entrepreneurial Development in partnership with UCT, which was later joined by the University of Johannesburg. The Academy has produced hundreds of new business owners, many of them offering employment to others, while well over 400 of its graduates are now actively employed.
Over the years, Raymond Ackerman was honoured by many institutions for his services to both business and society.
In their retirement from the board of Pick n Pay Stores Limited in 2010, Raymond and Wendy became Honorary Life Presidents. He maintained an active interest in Pick n Pay and his philanthropy projects .
A product of Bishops Diocesan College in Cape Town, he was President and then the patron of the Old Diocesan Union. He received seven honorary doctorates from local and international universities.
Raymond Ackerman was an avid and at one stage a scratch golfer, and was especially close to the Clovelly Golf Club, which his father founded and which was the first non-racial golf club in South Africa. He regularly watched all the golf majors and much sport on TV.
He was a devoted father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
Raymond Ackerman was a man of the people; never too busy or too proud to make time for others.
He remained humble throughout his life, and passionate about building a more just future for South Africa.
He was an enduring optimist about South Africa’s future, and his passing leaves a great void for us all.