ACKERMAN FAMILY #latvia
E Goldstein <eligold@...>
As Eli has sent a lenthy and detailed biography of
Raymond Ackerman I suggest that you visit the
website for the full text. Thank you Eli for
sending the reference. I have edited the biography.
I knew Raymond personally and he is an
exceptionally fine person.
Arlene Beare Moderator
The following excerpt is taken >from the PICK & PAY WEBSITE
Raymond Ackerman didn't grow up knowing that he would start an enormously
successful chain of Supermarkets. Although his father, Gus, had been one of
the founders of Ackermans, South Africa's first retail chain, the business
was started after the depression on borrowed money and Gus never fully
tasted the fruits of his own labour.
For someone so compassionate, Raymond Ackerman had a remarkably pressured
upbringing. He and his siblings went to good schools and never lacked for
anything. However, they were drilled with perpetual hard work and the belief
that success requires both good ideas and eternal vigilance.
At the University of Cape Town (UCT), Ackerman studied under Professor WH
Hutt, who preached consumer sovereignty at a time when cosy agreements
between business and government were the norm. "Care for the customers and
they will care for you," Hutt used to say.
Although his father thought it totally impractical, the mixture of
philanthropy and unbridled competition appealed immensely to Ackerman
junior. Sorting buttons and ladies' underwear at Ackermans was his first job
after he graduated and, in his brand new suit, the budding young
entrepreneur learned the meaning of courtesy by spending Saturday mornings
welcoming shoppers to the store and getting chairs for old ladies.
Just as the frustration was reaching unbearable levels, he found a position
in the Greatermans stores and there he learned about a much wider range of
merchandise and clientele. In 1955, Greatermans decided to
convert one of their old stores to a Supermarket, this became the starting
point of the Checkers chain
He believed that the necessity for regular food purchases means that it can
be profitably sold at much lower mark-ups than clothing or general
merchandise, which are not purchased as frequently. But Greatermans'
management didn't share Ackerman's enthusiasm for this dangerous experiment.
Norman Herber, the son of Harry Herber, to whom Gus Ackerman had sold the
Ackerman's chain in desperation, was now in control of Greatermans. Although
Ackerman junior was good at his job and well liked by staff and customers,
Herber did not appreciate him implementing his unconventional ideas. They
had only permitted food in their stores because it brought in people; now,
they felt, Ackerman was determined to make a loss on it.
Because food retailing was an unknown trade in South Africa, Ackerman begged
Herber to let him travel to America to investigate Supermarketing trends in
their most advanced form.
With limited funds, Raymond and his wife Wendy
travelled by Greyhound bus, sleeping in truck stops
and doing every kind of Supermarket job available, >from shelf packing to
fish cutting. They also attended seminars presented by retailing guru,
Bernardo Trujillo, on behalf of National Cash, explaining the theories of
modern retailing. They had found in Trujillo another influential person who
believed consumer sovereignty was the cornerstone of good retail business,
yet, unlike Hutt, whose approach was academic, Trujillo was a hard-nosed
When the Ackermans returned to South Africa, Herber decided to move Raymond
back into Menswear at Greatermans, meaning the lessons learned in the States
had to be put on ice. However, the new manager of the Checkers chain didn't
perform and, with management's back to the wall, Ackerman got his chance to
run the Checkers stores, utilising his new-found knowledge.
During these years of Pick 'n Pay's massive growth, Ackerman maintained
contact with his international retailing friends, and kept up to date with
their latest innovations - he is shameless about copying great ideas, and
believes spurious invention is not good for business.
Thirty years after he started Pick 'n Pay, Ackerman remains firmly in charge
only because he has acquired the wisdom to let go of those parts of the
business that are best left to a younger breed of retailers, who will carry
his legacy through into the twenty-first Century.