Supermarket supremo Raymond Ackerman is 90

Raymond and Wendy Ackerman in 2018 when the Johannesburg Stock Exchange congratulated Pick n Pay on its 50th listing anniversary

Raymond Ackerman, the founder of the Pick n Pay empire, celebrated his 90th birthday yesterday, Wednesday March 10 – even a bout of Covid-19 couldn’t stop him reaching the milestone.

“I survived Covid, but it was the worst illness I have ever had,” he says. “It has taken at least six months for me to recover, and I’m slowly feeling completely well again.”

The Constantia resident equates having Covid to when he was fired from his job as general manager of Checkers in 1966.

With the support of his wife Wendy, they moved from Johannesburg to Cape Town, where he bought four small stores from Jack Goldin in 1967. This was the start of Pick n Pay. When he retired as the company’s executive chairman in 2010, there were 1 900 stores in seven African countries, including superstores, family-franchise stores, liquor stores pharmacies and hypermarkets valued at R25 billion today.

It was also under his leadership that the group ventured into retail financial services and online shopping – not bad for someone who only recently gave up his old Nokia cellphone for his first iPhone… which he only uses to make and receive calls.

Mr Ackerman might say he has retired, but according to his son, Pick n Pay executive director Jonathan Ackerman, he is still very involved with the group and is regularly in touch with the group’s CEO, Richard Brasher, and chairman Gareth Ackerman, Raymond and Wendy’s other son. The couple also have two daughters, Kathryn Robins and Suzanne Ackerman-Berman, 12 grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Apart from keeping a keen eye on his Pick n Pay family, Mr Ackerman plays nine holes of golf in Clovelly weekly and still enjoys reading. Buitenverwachting and the Alphen are two of his favourite restaurants in the area, he says.

As a Constantia resident, he did have a problem many years ago when he wanted to build a Pick n Pay Hypermarket in the area. “I must thank the community, as they were against us putting up a Hyper in the area, and we opened with the present Constantia store, which is doing well,” he says of the Constantia Village store.

Looking back on what it took to grow a multi-billion rand business, he is grateful to Professor William Hutt, a British economist from UCT, who, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, taught him that the role of business is “consumer sovereignty” and all that means in playing a role in society – that “doing good, is good business”.

Unable to share his birthday with staff at the head office this year – a tradition he has enjoyed for over 50 years – Mr Ackerman addressed all staff online, and birthday cakes were delivered to stores for staff to join his 90th-birthday celebrations.

Founder of the Pick n Pay empire Raymond Ackerman celebrates his 90th birthday