Raymond Ackerman Biography: Early Life | Education |Career and Achievements | Death
Raymond Ackerman was a South African entrepreneur who founded the Pick ‘n Pay supermarket group in 1966. He was also a philanthropist, who supported various social and educational causes in his country. Ackerman passed away on 6 September 2023 at the age of 92.
Early Life and Education
Raymond Ackerman was born on 10 March 1931 in Cape Town and grew up in a retailing family. His father Gus founded the Ackermans chain of haberdashery stores after the First World War. He attended the Diocesan College (Bishops) and studied commerce at the University of Cape Town. His professor WH Hutt influenced him with the concept of consumer sovereignty, which became the core philosophy of his business.
Raymond Ackerman Career and Achievements
Raymond Ackerman started his career as a trainee manager at Greatermans, the company that had bought out his father’s business. He rose through the ranks and became the managing director of Checkers, a subsidiary of Greatermans that operated grocery stores.
The astute executive transformed Checkers into a successful chain by offering low prices, good quality and excellent service to customers. However, he was fired by the board of Greatermans in 1966, after a dispute over his expansion plans and his opposition to price collusion.
Ackerman then decided to start his own business and bought four small stores in Cape Town from Jack Goldin, who had named them Pick ‘n Pay. He expanded the chain rapidly, opening new stores across South Africa and later in other African countries.
The businessman also introduced innovative features such as central distribution, computerised stock control, franchising and loyalty programs. He made Pick ‘n Pay a leader in social responsibility by promoting equal opportunity for all employees, supporting various charitable causes and fighting against apartheid policies. He was also a vocal advocate for consumer rights, challenging government regulations that harmed customers and competing fiercely with rival chains.
Achievements And Awards
Ackerman received wide respect and admiration for his achievements and values. He received numerous awards and honors, such as:
- The Outstanding Young South African Award in 1970
- The Paul Harris Fellowship Award from Rotary International in 1987
- The Sunday Times Businessman of the Year Award in 1990
- The Ernst & Young Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000
- The Order of the Baobab in Gold from the South African government in 2010
- The David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership in Africa Award from The Synergos Institute Southern Africa office in 2010
He also wrote several books about his life and business philosophy, such as:
- Hear the Drums (1986)
- A Sprat to Catch a Mackerel (1992)
- The Four Legs of the Table (2007)
Raymond Ackerman Family and Personal Life
Ackerman married Wendy Ackerman, who played a significant role in the success of the business. They had four children: Gareth, Kathy, Suzanne, and Jonathan. All of them were involved in the family business in some capacity. Gareth took over as the chairman of Pick ‘n Pay in 20101. Ackerman also had 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Ackerman was a compassionate and generous person who cared deeply about his country and its people. He supported various social and educational initiatives through the Raymond Ackerman Foundation and the Raymond Ackerman Academy of Entrepreneurial Development.
The retailer also donated R4 million to the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town in 2006. He had a warm relationship with Nelson Mandela, whom he met several times after his release from prison.
Ackerman died on 6 September 2023 at his home in Constantia, Cape Town.