In Memoriam Harry Schuit Sr
Remembering a giant of the Domestic Appliance Trade. Harry Schuit Sr. who passed away on January 12, 2021.
Dear June and family, and all of you who had the honour of knowing Harry Sr.
Please allow me to say a few words on behalf of my wife Vanessa and I, and if I may be so bold, an industry that Harry made his own.
It is said that when a giant passes on, he leaves a large hole. Speaking from our hearts that’s painfully true. But in Harry’s case, he has left us and the industry with a huge legacy too.
Harry was a gentle giant, a pioneer and a leader well-ahead of his time. Harry changed the appliance trade in South Africa forever. Not only did he re-invent an old and tired industry, he set a standard for doing business in an industry where large retailers tend to view suppliers as fair game. A trade where buyers threaten and bully suppliers because they lack the ability to negotiate a win-win deal. Not Harry. He proved that by being ethical, straight and transparent, you can get the best of support from suppliers.
Harry was a pioneer too in employee engagement. The word didn’t even exist back then, but as much as Harry cared about building strong relationships of trust with his suppliers and customers, he focused heavily on the well-being and good relationships with his staff. I can assure you that at the time in the appliance trade looking after one’s staff was a rarity. Personal interest from the owner of the business was absolutely unheard of. That was Harry. A trail-blazer.
I was fortunate enough to enter the trade as a supplier of appliances at the time when Harry and his family were at their peak. Back then in the early nineties business was particularly tough; living under a threat of civil war and a potential military coup didn’t do much for importers who saw the Rand nose-dive and the best part of their consumers leave the country.
I very much remember the composed, confident and positive demeanor of Harry at all times during those horrid years. As for many other brands, Appliance City became my company’s biggest account in only a few years and more than made up for the losses in turnover suffered by other retailers all over the country. Always good for a few wise Dutch words and some wicked humor; a visit to Appliance City to meet Harry to ply one’s trade was the highlight of the week.
As years moved on, Harry stood back in the shadows. The limelight was not for him. Quietly he devised plans to build the business as only he could – and let his family take the lead. I remember the first time I lost Harry. I remember the mixed feelings my fellow competitors and I had when Harry and his family decided to exit. Of course, Harry’s timing to sell the business was perfect, both for financial and personal reasons. But no-one could fill the gap.
Whereas Appliance City soon landed on the scrapheap of bought-out and mismanaged businesses, Harry took to the new freedom as a fish takes to water, keeping his family close in his wake. He soon found new purpose and transformed himself and his family in the process. That too is a tough act to follow. It speaks for Harry that to this day, despite all the challenges that have come their way, June and her children remain a force of positivity and kindness to be reckoned with and we wish them well. Harry’s unwavering faith, his absolute trust in God is as much an inspiration to Christians and non-Christians alike. It’s so typical of Harry that even in death he leads the Way. The only Way. Thank you Harry. You couldn’t have left us with a bigger gift. God bless you and God bless June and your family.
Frank and Vanessa Vos