Whitey Basson and Pieter Engelbrecht used Pick n Pay’s playbook

New Pick n Pay CEO Sean Summers says Whitey Basson and Pieter Engelbrecht used Pick n Pay’s playbook to make Checkers the leading food retailer in South Africa.

Summers, who served as Pick n Pay’s CEO between 1999 and 2007, returned to the retailer to turn it around following disappointing results.

During his tenure as CEO, Pick n Pay’s revenue exceeded Shoprite’s in South Africa, and the company became a darling among investors.

When Summers left, Pick n Pay’s share price was in the mid-thirties, and its market cap was higher than Shoprite’s.

However, after Summers left, the retailer lost its way, and Shoprite, which owns Checkers, became the undisputed retail king. Shoprite’s market cap is now ten times higher than Pick n Pay’s.

Speaking to Biznews, Summers said what irritates him more than anything else is that Basson and Engelbrecht used Pick n Pay’s playbook to become market leaders.

He said the playbook Basson and Engelbrecht used to grow Checkers comes from Pick n Pay.

“All the stuff that we have done in the nineties, which took on a stellar growth path, Checkers later did,” he said.

The interventions included refurbishing all the stores, getting fresh food in the stores, creating beautiful areas, building house brands, and improving staff morale.

“They used our playbook and threw it back at this. They have done an excellent job. Ten out of ten to them,” he said.

“What they have done is nothing new. In a way, we have aided and abetted Checkers in its success while standing on the sidelines.”

He added that the energy and efforts of the leadership teams who have led Pick n Pay have not been focused enough on retail.

Summers said he is certain his competitors, including Checkers and Spar, are preparing to up their game with him back at the helm. However, it does not worry him.

“When I say it does not worry me, I am not cocky or arrogant. There is nothing I can do about my competitors. If I worry about them, I am putting my energy in the wrong place,” he said.

He said he must put all of his energy into Pick n Pay to turn the company around and fulfil his promises.

“We need to play to our strengths. A lot of people in South Africa still love Pick n Pay. However, they feel we have let them down – and we did,” he said.

“We are sorry, but we are going to make it right. That is where we are at the moment.”