Death of 'merchant prince' Vic Hammond
VIC Hammond, 72, who was something of a legend in the retail industry, died last Sunday.
Hammond took over as group managing director of Edgars in 1983, when sales were R400-million, and grew the company to a R2-billion retail giant shortly before he retired in 1990. Prior to his appointment as group MD, he ran the Edgars chain for 11 years.
On retirement, Hammond became a retail consultant to the whole of SA Breweries group.
He was voted one of the Business Times top five businessmen of 1990. At the time Business Times said he had "become a legend in a difficult retailing sector", adding that profits at Edgars had far outstripped growth in turnover during his tenure.
Hammond followed the equally renowned Sydney Press and Adrian Bellamy to the helm of Edgars, and was succeeded by George Beeton, another industry guru.
In 1990, Meyer Kahn, then SAB's MD, described Hammond as a self-critical, homespun philosopher with a great sense of humour. "I would call him one of the great merchants of our time," he said. "He was born with a feel for people and merchandise."
When Hammond retired, Kahn said: "We have created the (consultant) job for him because he's a merchant prince and we're trying to keep his skills in the group."
Hammond was a manager who did not place too much emphasis on exerting his control and instilling discipline. He was not scared to delegate and intervened only when there were problems.
Current Edgars CE Don Etheridge, who worked with Hammond for many years, said he was "a most unusual man" who managed to gain from his staff both respect, "tinged with a touch of fear", and personal affection.
Etheridge said he was one of the great characters of South African business, with a mischievous sense of humour. At the same time, he was a good retailer and excellent manager of people.
Shortly before retiring, Hammond described the Edgars head office as "my favourite lunatic asylum". He said although there was a code of conduct, it was loose and he tried to make people feel respected and listened to, and to give them opportunity to grow.
He tried hard to reduce the measure of control and introduce an element of fun to the business, something which his former colleagues say he achieved.