Published: 06:00, 26 March 2020
With casual shopping currently a distant memory, KentOnline takes a look back at the construction of the retail hubs built in the county during the late 90s and early 2000s.
While some have taken a hit with the loss of recent big chains, Kent's shopping centres continue to attract hundreds of people everyday and pump millions into the local economy... albeit when the country isn't on lockdown.
Now owned entirely by Canterbury City Council, the outside shopping complex at the top end of the city boasts more than 60 units.
The old Ricemans department store was demolished in 2003 to make way for Fenwick.
A huge archaelogical dig was carried out for three years before construction began, with thousands of objects being unearthed.
Channel 4 show Time Team filmed at the site which formerly housed a multi-storey car park.
A Roman road, tower, timber buildings and town houses were discovered, as well as a suspected Second World War bomb which turned out to be a Victorian cooking pot.
Whitefriars also includes the Marlowe Arcade - the only roofed section of the complex.
Ashford Designer Outlet, Ashford
Believed to be the 'world's largest tented retail structure', the outlet was designed by architect Sir Richard Rogers who is famed for his work on the Lloyd's building in London and the O2 Arena in Greenwich.
The large oval attracts hundreds of thousands of shoppers each year.
Work started on the site in 1997 on floodplain land next to the former Kimberley Works of Ashford Railway Works.
The McArthur Glen-run shopping centre opened in March 2000 - drawing in visitors from across the county and from further afield.
Last autumn, a long-awaited extension opened adding scores of new shops and food units to the site.
Fremlin Walk, Maidstone
Fremlin's Brewery - established in 1861 - was the largest of its kind in Kent before being purchased by Whitbread in 1967.
It ceased being a brewery just a few years later and became a bottling depot - it was later demolished, with the arched entrance and clock remaining.
Plans were hatched at the turn of the century for a shopping complex at the site, along with a 700-space car park.
Since opening, the centre has changed hands four times, with current owners M&G Real Estate taking over for more than £100 million.
County Square extension, Ashford
The original County Square - previously called the Tufton Centre - was expanded 12 years ago.
Costing £60 million, the extension saw the shopping centre grow by a third.
The flagship Debenhams, which faces onto Elwick Road, store closed its doors for the final time earlier this year.
A quarry for many years, the 240 acre site provided chalk for the builders of London until the vision for a huge shopping centre was launched.
Built as Europe's retail complex, the £375 million construction project started in 1996.
Bluewater triggered a retail renaissance across Kent as towns worried about losing shoppers to their new neighbour sharpened up their act.
Now boasting almost all forms of retail, food and entertainment units you could think of, the site is the place of work for about 50,000 people.
Bouverie Place, Folkestone
Shops including Asda, Next, BHS, HMV and Peacocks signed up to be the first tenants in Folkestone's £30 million shopping centre 13 years ago.
Planning permission was granted in July 2004 after developers developers Bride Hall Estates gained support Shepway District Council's planning committee.
A 600-space car park was also opened.
Dockside Shopping Outlet, Chatham
The £67 million centre in Grade II-listed Victorian boiler welcomed 15,000 shoppers on its opening day 17 years ago.
The original clocktower at the maritime building was kept standing.
In 2015, the shopping mall - next to the historic dockyard - was sold to a retail management firm WD Ltd for £9.1 million.
Westwood Cross, Broadstairs
The sprawling open-air complex was built on the site of the former Haine Hospital following its closure in 1997 and later demolition in 2003.
The main shopping centre opened in 2005, followed by the Vue cinema in 2007 and the large Mecca bingo hall.
A later extension to rehouse Wickes was added in 2010 before a new Primark and a nearby Sainsbury's opened.
Bligh's Meadow, Sevenoaks
Originally opening almost 20 years ago, Bligh's Meadow - in the heart of Sevenoaks -was introduced in phases.
Now home to more than 35 shops, the complex used to be a meadow, before becoming a bus station and car park.
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More by this authorJoe Wright