By Vince Pienaar

The idea that Raymond Ackerman was a kind and gentle man who only did good deeds is only partially true.

Those who did battle with him across the boardroom table soon realised that they were in a fight for survival. While he always fought within the rules, he certainly used every trick in the book to get what he wanted.

But Raymond Ackerman changed the face of retail in South Africa.

He grew up in the family business that to this day is known as Ackermans. But a family feud saw the young man walking out.

Having nothing to do, he turned his attention to a small group of four supermarkets in Cape Town known as Pick n Pay.

He bought the stores from Jack Goldin in 1967 and in a very short time his business was the yardstick for supermarket excellence, first in Cape Town, and then across the country.

Today, huge supermarkets are part of the landscape, but in 1975 when he built the first hypermarket in Brackenfell, Cape Town it was revolutionary.

When it was announced that he was going to build a monstrously huge hypermarket in Gauteng, many people — and people who should have known better — shook their heads and predicted doom.

Putting it in the middle of nowhere, somewhere between the Johannesburg airport and Boksburg on the East Rand, seemed a little crazy.

It was so crazy that it worked — and how! On opening day, 11 May 1975, the Boksburg Hyper did R1 million turnover. The first store ever to do so.

Always up for a fight, Ackerman was at the forefront of the fight against price-fixing.

The image of him dispensing “cut-price” fuel at the Boksburg Hypermarket made headlines around the country. He lost the battle, of course. The state did not tolerate resistance, but he certainly made his point.

The group’s venture into Australian retailing has never really come off the ground. Plagued by the politics of the time, the venture fell apart. Lately, Pick and Pay is still involved in Australia but not on the scale they had hoped for.

When Ackerman and his wife Wendy retired from the board in 2010, they involved themselves in philanthropic activities.

Retail is a tough environment, and Ackerman was as tough as they come. But he has left an indelible impression on the commercial history of the country.    

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

Pictured above: Raymond Ackerman

Image source: Twitter


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