Uncertainty over store’s future
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