Obituary: Keith Ackroyd, successful Yorkshire businessman and former managing director of Boots

Keith Ackroyd, who has died at 89, was a successful businessman from the West Riding and the former managing director of Boots The Chemist.

Born on Francis Street in Halifax, he grew up in the family home at Moor End Gardens in Mount Tabor, from where he attended Heath Grammar. As a teenager, he had aspirations of pursuing a career as a doctor, but his family lacked the funds for such a long course so he instead opted to study pharmacy at Bradford Technical College.

He joined Boots as an apprentice pharmacist in the Halifax branch in 1952 at age 18, qualifying four years later.

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He swiftly climbed the career ladder over the next 12 years with a number of management posts, culminating in his appointment as territorial general manager in Lancashire in 1967, the youngest to reach the position in the company’s history.

Keith AckroydKeith Ackroyd
Keith Ackroyd

He moved to Nottigham in 1971 as a sales promotion manager and was appointed to the board of Boots The Chemists four years later.

In 1977 he was responsible for negotiating the takeover of a drug store chain in Canada, taking Boots into North America, and crossing the Atlantic as he was made the first president of Boots Drug Stores.

The 80s saw him become managing director, first of Boots The Chemists and then the newly formed retail division, incorporating Boots Opticians, Children’s World, Halfords and the French company, Sephora.

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In the late 80s and early 90s he served as chairman of the British Retail Consortium and its precursor, the British Retailers Association, and under his leadership it grew in stature to become a body which was consulted with at ministerial level.

He was also part of a group of leading national retailers who formed a high-powered council to campaign for a change in Sunday trading laws.

Alongside senior colleagues, Mr Ackroyd lobbied members of parliament face-to-face and built contacts with influential civil servants at the Home Office responsible for drafting the new Sunday Trading Act 1994, which allowed shops to open legally for six hours on Sundays for the first time.

In 1994 he was appointed CBE for services to the retail industry.

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Upon retiring from Boots in 1994 after 41 years, he became a director of several companies including Victoria Carpets and Silentnight, later serving as Chairman of the Trent Regional Health Authority. He also advised parliament in his role on the National Board for Crime Prevention and Passport Agency Board.

In his spare time, he enjoyed shooting, hosting parties, playing Bridge, going out for meals, and rugby, which he played as a schoolboy.

He married Gwenda in 1958 and they were together for 65 years until her death last October. They had three children, seven grandsons and one great-grandson.

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