Inconvenience of supermarket shutdown
While modernday convenience stores now grace town centres up and down the country, they are certainly nothing like the ‘supermarkets’ of yesteryear, some of which have moved out of town in the last 30 years.
Today, mini-versions of our larger chains such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Iceland are often a ‘poor excuse’ for what once was.
They are only for convenience, you say. Well I think readers will join me in agreeing it is somewhat alarming that you have to go literally ‘out’ of Ashford to find most things nowadays.
That’s very frustrating for those of us of a certain age who remember you could get almost everything in town at one time.
One such example of a proper town centre supermarket was Sainsbury’s, who were located in the town’s heart up until 2000.
After opening their first counter service store at 18 High Street (now the NatWest) in 1934, and a self-service store at 56 High Street (now Boots) in October 1968, the company opened its first decent sized store, complete with multistorey car park, in Park Street in 1978.
One will never really know why Sainsbury’s closed their Park Street store, especially as it was still extremely profitable while running alongside the out-of-town Bybrook store that opened in August 1992.
The town centre site was purpose built and Sainsbury’s owned the car park too so concessional parking was a benefit. But the company were one of many under the illusion that everyone had a car and shoppers would buck the trend and jump on a short-lived dedicated free bus service to the out-of-town store. So many were left out in the cold when the store closed, becoming a Wilkinson store a year later.
It had even been extended in 1986, when neighbouring Park Mall was built, so why did they do away with a little gold mine?
In recent times, Sainsbury’s has vastly altered their out-of-town sites, and the Bybrook branch was extended and made to look more like a B&Q warehouse on the inside when the ceiling was removed. In the minds of many, the store was made too big, much against the wishes of loyal shoppers. Even 24-hour shopping has been abandoned in recent years.
This week’s Remember When looks back at the chain’s final town centre store in Park Street, which opened in the days before barcodes, scanning and dot.com services were even thought of.
Do you have any photographs or slides that you would be willing to lend me, to enable them to be scanned and featured in the Kentish Express? If so please write to me: Steve Salter, Kentish Express Remember When, 34-36 North Street, Ashford, TN24 8JR, email me at rememberwhen_kmash@ hotmail.co.uk or follow me on Twitter @SteveKMAshford. Or you can also leave a telephone message for me with brief details by calling 01233 623232.
Edinburgh Road, Ashford in 1977, and a picture showing the second self-service Sainsbury’s store in Ashford town centre being built on land formerly occupied by housing. Until construction started the land had been used as the site offices for the construction of Charter House. The store, branch number 032, was designed by architects Ley Colbeck and Partners and built by Wiltshier of Parham Road, Canterbury. It opened together with a four floor multi-storey car park in 1978.
Park Street, Ashford in 1978, and a picture showing trolllies lined up outside the third Ashford store for supermarket giant Sainsbury’s. Their earlier store, which had opened 10 years previously, became a branch of Boots the Chemist in 1979. The store, typical of a 1970s Sainsbury’s, was further extended and refurbished in 1986, showing a continual investment in the town. It ran alongside the out-of-town 1992 store until 2000. The former Sainsbury’s store is now home to Wilkinson.
Park Street, Ashford in 1978, and an image looking inside the supermarket, showing pre-barcode days with the traditional Sweda cash registers and boxes at the rear of the checkouts. The branch was still bustling up until the day it closed.