Un­cer­tainty over store’s fu­ture

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Business Matters -

Un­cer­tainty sur­rounds whether Deben­hams’ Ash­ford store or the one in Folke­stone will be af­fected by plans to stream­line the depart­ment store chain over the next five years.

The chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Ser­gio Bucher an­nounced that up to 10 stores “will be con­sid­ered for clo­sure” last week.

A Deben­hams spokesman said: “Deben­hams’ CEO an­nounced its in­terim re­sults and fu­ture strat­egy, which in­cludes look­ing at the store es­tate.

“While it is stated that up to 10 stores will be con­sid­ered for clo­sure over the next five years, there will not be any im­me­di­ate im­pli­ca­tions for any of the stores.

“At the same time, we con­tinue to open a small num­ber of stores in se­lected lo­ca­tions.”

Ru­mours erupted in Septem­ber that the Sandgate Road store in Folke­stone would be shut­ting its doors in Jan­uary.

How­ever, the com­pany’s head­quar­ters in Lon­don de­nied the clo­sure ru­mours, say­ing the store is com­mit­ted to its cus­tomers in Shep­way.

A spokesman said last year: “Deben­hams re­mains com­mit­ted to our store in Folke­stone and there are no plans to close.”

The Deben­hams store in Ash­ford – the town’s big­gest shop – opened in March 2008 when County Square opened its ex­tended shop­ping mall to ac­com­mo­date what was its an­chor store.

The ex­ten­sion dou­bled the size of the shop­ping cen­tre, in­creased the num­ber of retail units to 60 and raised the num­ber of park­ing spa­ces to 600. As we re­ported last week the former BHS store in Ash­ford re­mains empty, nearly a year since the col­lapse of depart­ment store chain.

The branch in County Square closed on July 24 last year but the shop­ping cen­tre still hasn’t found a new tenant to take over the huge unit.

We asked Ash­ford res­i­dents who they’d like to see oc­cupy the large, cur­rently empty store and the an­swer was al­most uni­ver­sally a PRI­MARK.

So here are a se­lec­tion of the com­ments our read­ers posted on­line: Amy Barnes: “I don’t un­der­stand why they keep fill­ing Ash­ford up with things we don’t need. JD Sports is a good thing as there isn’t much in town for men but re­ally the shops are rub­bish so why would any­one come to Ash­ford town to shop? 100% need a Pri­mark.” James Hazel­don: “Why not turn the up­stairs into a restau­rant and kids soft play area and have the down­stairs as an in­door mar­ket type of set-up for small traders.” Stacey Trott: “We say it ev­ery time .... Pri­mark please and we still don’t get one! I’m sure it will be turned into a pound shop or nail bar or an­other take­away place.” Jane Hale: “Can’t see Pri­mark com­ing here as they al­ready have two large stores in Folke­stone and Maid­stone and I don’t think this store size is big enough. The prob­lem is its size.

In my opin­ion as it’s too big for many and not big enough for say Pri­mark, per­haps The Range would be nice or per­haps a store like M&S could move there as it’s larger.” Peter Mor­ris-Kelso: “Pri­mark have said on sev­eral oc­ca­sions that they have no in­ter­est in Ash­ford as they al­ready have enough large stores in Kent and that they don’t be­lieve they’ll get the foot­fall to make the store fi­nan­cially vi­able.” Steve Sal­ter: “Thing that’s putting po­ten­tial ten­ants off is the fact that the unit is tech­ni­cally a sep­a­rate en­tity. There are reapir is­sues and the electrics are grossly out­dated.” David-James Sell­ing: “Would prefer­ably like some ac­tual men’s clothes shops. Plus, I know it’s never go­ing to hap­pen, but a Pri­mark would hope­fully bring more peo­ple to Ash­ford, and peo­ple com­ing down on the train from Lon­don etc to go to the De­signer Out­let might then come into the town as well.” Karen Cole: “Pri­mark would be a good op­tion but it won’t as it’s been re­ported be­fore that they re­fused that unit be­fore BHS moved in. De­spite hav­ing other stores in nearby towns I still feel this store would make money so it’s just a shame Pri­mark won’t give it a chance. Go­ing to be dif­fi­cult to split that unit as it has very lit­tle store frontage and masses of space at the back.” Tom Wright: “There’s only one shop that could fill that space up now #Pri­mark.” Nikki Rochester: “Per­son­ally I would like a Pri­mark as would many peo­ple I know. I am fed up hav­ing to go to Folke­stone or Maid­stone and if ABC did a poll and pre­sented the re­sults now to Pri­mark they would see there would be the foot­fall. We can’t all af­ford to spend £40 on one top when you can get four or more items for that in Pri­mark.” Niki Young: “Throw­ing it out there I would like it to be­come a per­for­mance area/the­atre. I am sure that there is nowhere planned for that in Ash­ford. We are cry­ing out for some­where for lo­cal com­mu­nity the­atre groups to per­form at a rea­son­able cost.” Karen Bid­well: “Pri­mark for young chil­dren is great. My grand­daugh­ters can get all their clothes for a frac­tion of the price and they love car­ry­ing a bas­ket around and just putting stuff in it.” Natasha Aldridge: “Why can’t they see that Pri­mark would be per­fect? It would bring more peo­ple into the town as it’s too full of phone shops, pound shops and hair­dressers.” Dawn West­gate: “Don’t think in fair­ness it is the coun­cil’s fault. Pri­mark do not feel Ash­ford is a vi­able busi­ness op­tion and al­ready have a Folke­stone store. Coun­cils can’t force traders into towns.” Pat Heustice: “Pri­mark would cer­tainly bring in the crowds.” Leanne Grenville: “Pri­mark would be good as it will of­fer lots of job op­por­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple.” Caro­line O’Con­nell: “Pri­mark moved into the former Read­ing BHS and is do­ing very well.”

Deben­hams ex­ten­sion in County Square

Ash­ford res­i­dents would like to see a Pri­mark take over the va­cant premises

The BHS store in Ash­ford’s County Square closed for the last in July 2016

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