While South Africa is not over the worst yet, the country is heading in a distinctly more optimistic direction, says Pick n Pay chairman Gareth Ackerman, speaking at the company’s AGM on Monday (30 July).
However, he stressed that more focus needed to be placed on creating employment.
“In just about every public survey, the number one priority for South Africans is employment. It’s not difficult to see why: with job security comes dignity, the ability to chart your own future, provide for your family and play a meaningful role in the economy,” he said.
He further welcomed the president’s initiative to get companies to focus on creating jobs.
“We hope that with the focus on foreign investment into South Africa, it is not just replacement capital but new investment into the economy. Local companies need to be recognized and incentivized to increase their investment and create jobs,” he said.
As part of this focus, Ackerman said that over the next three years, Pick n Pay aims to create an additional 15,000 new jobs.
“This will bring many young people into the world of work and the opportunities that retail provides to build a career and progress in the world,” he said.
“But the company’s impact is far wider: we work with about 10,000 suppliers, and last year spent nearly R68 billion with them. This provides employment to more than 400,000 people.”
“In total, we believe at least one million people are directly affected by Pick n Pay by way of employment.”
Ackerman said that Pick n Pay will also focus more on its franchise stores – nearly a third of which are black owned and nearly 40% of which are either Exempted Micro Enterprises or Qualifying Small Enterprises.
This will include working with the Consumer Goods Council of SA and the DTI to talk about better recognition for these small businesses and franchisees on the BEE scorecard, he said.
Ackerman also confirmed that the company will introduce 100% recyclable bags – made from 100% recycled material – in all stores this coming month.
“We are encouraging government to spend the money collected from the plastic bag tax where it was intended,” he said.
“Too often, additional taxes are levied on products – from plastic bags to sugar to petrol – which simply wind up in the general fiscus. The impact of these taxes is often not well thought through. This can lead to ripple effects and unintended negative consequences throughout the economy.”
Ackerman said the company is also making good progress in meeting its global commitments to the international Consumer Goods Forum Agenda.
All its new and refurbished stores are being fitted with more natural refrigeration systems.
Pick n Pay had also introduced a new online system to collect data from suppliers on their palm oil and soya sourcing and use, Ackerman said.