Published: 11:11, 06 February 2019
| Updated: 14:16, 06 February 2019
Marks and Spencer will close two high street stores in the spring, it has been confirmed.
The retail giant announced the closure today of its Deal and Ashford stores following a consultation with its staff.
It comes despite huge efforts from residents who launched both online and paper petitions to save the high street stores.
The decision affects 45 workers in Deal and 41 in Ashford.
Deal's store will shut on Saturday, April 27 before Ashford shuts up shop on Saturday, May 4.
M&S has refused to release information about any possible redundancies but is working hard to offer redeployment to its employees.
An M&S spokesman said: “Proposing to close the stores was a difficult decision.
"Over the past few weeks we’ve been consulting with our colleagues and, following this rigorous process, the decision has been made to close our Deal store on Saturday, April 27 and Ashford on Saturday, May 4.
“We’d like to thank our customers, the local community and their representatives for the feedback they’ve given.
"We hope to see lots of customers continuing to shop with us at our other stores in the region including our Foodhall in Dover, our store at Westwood Cross shopping centre, Ashford Outlet, our new store in Maidstone, due to open next year, and on M&S.com”
Hours after the announcement of its proposed closure on Tuesday, January 15, an online petition to save the Deal store was launched by Jake Perry.
The online document attracted 3,000 signatures in the first 24 hours and the number of supporters has since risen to more than 5,200.
A paper petition launched by Emma Ford from Tamarisk clothing boutique also gained about 5,200 signatures.
She reacted: "At least we tried.
"I’m so proud of all the volunteers who stood outside in the freezing cold, doing their bit.
"The response, both from M&S staff, and the town as a whole, was amazing. To everyone who helped, a big thank you."
Deal and Dover MP Charlie Elphicke who met with Tony Ginty, M&S’ head of public affairs, in Parliament last month to discuss the earmarked closure, says he is deeply disappointed.
He said: “Everyone knows that M&S has been struggling nationally and closing stores up and down the land. Yet this is a deeply disappointing decision for our community.
“M&S has been at the heart of our high street for more than 80 years and benefited from the loyal customers of Deal.
“They owe it to the people of Deal to ensure a great retailer fills this prime location in the town centre.
“I will continue to work with the council to see if we can find a new location for an M&S Food store in Deal.
“I will hold M&S to their commitment that all staff are redeployed.
“And I will continue to campaign in Parliament for there to be a level tax playing field between high street shops and online giants like Amazon.”
It has also been confirmed that the Ashford store will close in May.