Pick n Pay supermarket founder Raymond Ackerman dies at 92

07 September 2023 - 07:18
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Raymond Ackerman dies at the age of 92.
Raymond Ackerman dies at the age of 92.
Image: Supplied

South African retail legend Raymond Ackerman has died at the age of 92, Pick n Pay confirmed on Thursday.

Ackerman is survived by his wife Wendy, children Gareth, Kathy, Suzanne and Jonathan, his 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Ackerman came from a retailing family with his father having founded Ackermans after World War 1.

He and Wendy founded Pick n Pay in 1967 after buying four stores in Cape Town. The group has grown to more than 2,000 stores across South Africa and seven other African countries. The duo retired from the board in 2010, but became honorary life presidents. “He maintained an active interest in Pick n Pay and his philanthropy projects,” PnP said.

“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.

“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.” 

Bishops, his old school, paid tribute to the former patron of the Old Diocesan Union, describing him as a “person of integrity, morality, dignity, with a sense of what is right and responsible.” 

“He first came to Bishops in January 1944 as a boarder in School House, matriculating in the first class in 1948. His college years were characterised by his activity in all spheres of school life, including a strong involvement in sports and co-curricular activities. His desire to help others was evident from an early age and he taught in the Night School, an after-hours initiative to provide education to the support staff from the school.”

After matriculating, Raymond went on to the University of Cape Town where he graduated with a B. Com. degree in 1951 before entering the retail business.

“Raymond will be forever remembered for his strong commitment to the consumer, to fight against discrimination and the monopoly on basic goods, and for the way he demonstrated his strong social responsibility.”

Ackerman endorsed nonracialism in his stores and was among the business leaders who lobbied during the apartheid era for a move to democracy.

“Even in the 1960s, he was determined to promote all employees to managerial positions, in defiance of apartheid laws which forbade it,” PnP said.

“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,” the group said.

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 nonracial golf club in South Africa.

In 2004, he established the Raymond Ackerman Academy for Entrepreneurial Development in partnership with the University of Cape Town, which was later joined by the University of Johannesburg. PnP said 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.

Business Unity South Africa said Ackerman was an iconic business figure whose “remarkable legacy and resolute commitment to championing consumer rights, promoting inclusivity, and fostering an entrepreneurial spirit set a benchmark at that time.”

“Throughout his life, Mr. Ackerman was a retail pioneer who challenged the inclusion of VAT on essential food items and reducing the cost of daily essentials, thus positioning himself as a true advocate for the South African consumer. His philanthropic endeavours speak volumes about his dedication to empowerment and upliftment.

“The Ackerman Family Trust's commendable support of education has resulted in the graduation of hundreds from diverse professional backgrounds, reaffirming his belief in the transformative power of education.”

Busa CEO Cas Coovadia said: “His legacy is one of resilience, integrity, and dedication. Raymond Ackerman was a trailblazer in the truest sense.”


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