What will replace Woolworths?
NEWS that closure is hanging over the Woolworths stores in Ashford and Tenterden is indeed sad. The stores have been an integral part of the shopping scene in the high streets of both towns for almost as long as anyone can remember and their demise, if it happens, will be a real blow. Not only is there the very real worry that both shops could shut if no buyer for Woolworths emerges but there’s also the dilemma of who, in a recession, is likely to want to take over the premises. The thought of empty stores in such key locations is a worrying one. Attempts to find a buyer for the 815-store Woolworths chain have so far drawn a blank and the stores in Ashford and Tenterden both started “closing down” sales last week. While shoppers were happy to snap up some bargains, many of them will have done so with a tinge of sadness that such a well-established name could soon disappear. The threat to Woolworths is confirmation that the recession is now actually beginning to really bite in the borough. And last week when the council’s executive examined its budgetary options for the next two years, in order to prevent a big rise in council tax, it was forced to consider some major cuts. We welcome the executive’s pledge that everything will be done to protect frontline services, but some cutbacks will undoubtedly hit the wider community. The hope is, of course, that a competing retailer will either take over Woolworths or at least the stores in the best locations – hopefully including Ashford and Tenterden. As 2008 draws to a close it’s worrying that the dark days of recession now loom large. Let’s hope is that it will be short-lived and that the shoots of recovery are seen in 2009.