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The Gareth Ackerman business leadership journey

The chairman of one of SA’s biggest employers candidly shares his lessons.

Retailing is literally in Gareth Ackerman’s blood. His journey to becoming chairman of Pick n Pay and on the board of the International Consumer Goods Forum, began with his ancestors four generations ago. This was in the 1880s when his forebears arrived in South Africa from Lithuania and started trading in ostrich feathers – a highly fashionable item in those years.

Fast forward to today and the company that his father established 50 years ago directly employs 85 000 people in South Africa (with about a million people who are dependent on the Pick n Pay ecosystem for their daily bread) and has 1 600 stores over seven countries in southern Africa.

Ackerman’s retailing education began way before university, when he worked in his father’s stores on Friday afternoons after school. Along his career path he has variously been an aisle sweeper, shelf packer, buyer and store manager.

In this in-depth, full-length video interview, Ackerman speaks candidly about errors of judgement and the valuable business lessons learnt as a result. He discusses everything from the business sense in the community-centric values embraced by his father, to Pick n Pay’s successful and unsuccessful forays into Australia; including a situation that involved negotiating with Australian Unions, the ANC and Namibia’s SWAPO liberation movement all sitting at the same table.

He also shares the unintended consequences (for himself in particular) of establishing the country’s first ever hypermarket in 1975, the critical role that he sees Pick n Pay and all food retailers needing to play in creating food security in Africa and the environmental paradoxes faced by food retailers. 

In partnership with FNB, Moneyweb presents this bespoke leadership video series with top business people. The interview draws on the person’s life, failures and the lessons they have learnt on their journey to the successful leadership positions they hold today.

Other business leaders share their stories here.

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