Abstract: Rainbow Medicine: People, Passion, and Politics—Cultural Ingredients of a Post-Apartheid Company Turnaround in South Africa

Anton Ehlers


Pep Stores was founded during the heyday of apartheid (1965) as a South African retail clothing company servicing the "cheap" (mainly colored and African) market. Despite a history of continuous growth, Pep Stores did not achieve budgeted sales for five consecutive years in the middle 1990s. The paper describes and evaluates the company's assessment of and reaction to this period of stagnation. It suggests that the 2000 turnaround of the company was achieved by the new management team that was appointed in 1998 because their response was more sensitive to and aware of the way in which the period of democratic transition and the resulting introduction of a new social-economic and political dispensation in South Africa in 1994 impacted the culture of their traditional retail environment. The result was a reinvented Pep Stores with a Sikhula KunYe (growing together) culture that was more compatible with the rising expectations of their newly politically and socially emancipated Black customers and employees.