Following the unexpected death of Peter Aldis, former CEO of Holland & Barrett (H&B), on 30 June, NPN hears from friends and former colleagues who pay tribute to a man they describe as a ‘larger than life character’ and ‘self-made winner’.

Martin Moran, close friend of the family and former operations director at H&B, reflects on Aldis’ early professional life: “His retail career started when he dropped out of his A-Level studies [and] decided to take a sales assistant role in Curry’s – a decision his father frowned upon, saying “Retail will never give you a career of note.” If only he had survived to see his son’s achievements. Peter would tell people, when asked to describe his skills, that he was a ‘simple shop keeper’, which severely underplayed his prolific achievements. There is a saying that typifies Peter: ‘Winners make it happen; losers let it happen’. Peter Aldis was a self-made winner.”

After Curry’s came Asda, where Aldis worked on the management team of several stores across London. In 1990 he joined H&B, beginning a 29-year career with the chain which would see him span several divisions; he moved from area sales manager to more senior positions within property and acquisitions – where he was instrumental in driving the chain’s rapid bricks and mortar expansion – and marketing, before becoming commercial director in 2000 and launching the famous ‘Penny Sale’. In 2006 he was promoted to managing director and in 2009 became CEO, following the retirement of Barry Vickers. As MD, Aldis developed H&B’s online presence and launched a global franchise division across Europe, Asia and the Middle East. A new manufacturing plant was built in Burton and a new headquarters established in Nuneaton.

Peter would tell people … he was a ‘simple shop keeper’, which severely underplayed his prolific achievements

“Under his leadership … the brand was ahead of the curve on areas such as vegan and natural beauty,” recalls Moran. “Under his leadership H&B was recognized on two occasions as Speciality Retailer of the Year and the H&B training programme recognized as a leading programme for the health food industry. Peter was a loud voice within the industry and served as chairman of the NAHS [now Health Stores UK] for several years. He helped develop strategies … to promote the industry and fight legislation where necessary. He would be very active and have lively presence at shows and conferences – a larger than life character who loved socializing and was always on hand to help guide or advise anybody who asked for his help.”

When H&B was sold by previous owner Carlyle in 2017 Aldis’ commercial legacy showed an ‘unprecedented 38 quarters of like for like growth’ – a record Moran says has never been delivered before and is unlikely to be again.

A winner to the end. Gone but never forgotten

In 2019, after 29 years with the business, Aldis left H&B and was appointed managing director for US-based vitamin manufacturer Piping Rock, which he subsequently expanded to the UK. Taking on various additional advisory and non-executive roles within the industry, in 2022 he founded consultancy business Aldis Advice, which focused on supporting companies within the health sector. “He was actively working on the day he passed away. A winner to the end. Gone but never forgotten,” comments Moran.

Roger Craddock, former group legal director and company secretary, H&B, adds his own tribute: “I was a director of Holland & Barrett for over 25 years, working with Peter. He was a larger than life character; sometimes infuriating, but always an astute businessman and invariably great fun. He would describe himself as a ‘shopkeeper’ and thought his greatest strength was his passion for the industry, which he certainly had in spades.”

Aldis, a proud Irishman and avid Leicester Tigers fan, owned five dogs and was a former judge on The Apprentice. He is survived by wife Sile, and children Fred, Conor, Aoife, Kitty and Arthur.