Published: 05:00, 03 May 2019
A huge hole will be left in a town centre tomorrow when M&S shuts its doors for the final time.
The Ashford store - which has been in its current spot for 40 years - will shut at 5.30pm after decades of serving the high street.
It means the town has been dealt a double blow after Debenhams revealed last week that its three-storey County Square store is also set to close next year.
Of the 41 members of staff at the Ashford M&S, about 60% have been redeployed to other stores, bosses say.
An M&S spokesman said: “Shopping habits are changing and reshaping our store estate to reflect this means making some difficult decisions.
"Our Ashford store will close on Saturday, and we hope to see lots of customers continuing to shop with us online and at M&S Dover, Westwood Cross and Canterbury where the vast majority of our colleagues are relocating to."
An Ashford Borough Council spokesman says the future of the large unit remains unclear.
He said: “Clearly this is sad news, but it’s important to note that M&S isn’t leaving Ashford completely as they still have two other stores within the town, with the M&S Foodhall and their store at the Designer Outlet.
"There is no news as yet on a new tenant, but we continue to work with the owners of County Square, Kennedy Wilson, over potential new occupiers for the store.”
The closure is part of M&S’s programme to reshape its UK store estate.
Last year, the company confirmed it would close 100 stores across the country over the next four years.
The campaign attracted 930 signatures.
Shoppers told KentOnline this week how disheartened they are by the news.
Wye resident Valerie Eldner, 76, said: "It was bad enough having one store going but now both are it is the end of the town centre.
"I don't want M&S to close as there is nothing left in the town with Debenhams going too.
"Lots of people haven't got their own cars and have to rely on public transport, but they have put everything outside of the town."
KentOnline contacted County Square for a response, but the shopping centre said it could not comment.
More by this authorDan Wright