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Save Debenhams Campaign launched for Folkestone store

By Sam Williams

A grandmother who fears a town centre will die without Debenhams has taken to the streets in a bid to save the doomed store.

Jean Spain, of Sandgate Road, Folkestone, launched the Save Debenhams Campaign two weeks ago along with husband John and the pair have already collected 1,000 signatures.

They hope to present the petition to store bosses with the hope they will reconsider the future of the town’s flagship shop, in Sandgate Road.

Jean Spain outside Debenhams in Sandgate Road, Folkestone. Picture: Chris Davey
Jean Spain outside Debenhams in Sandgate Road, Folkestone. Picture: Chris Davey

Mrs Spain, 75, said: “There is a lot of upset in the town that Debenhams is going. If it leaves the high street it would change it beyond recognition. The market will suffer because less people will come into town.

“I really think Folkestone will die. Nothing was being done so we launched the campaign to show the level of support there is.”

Since starting the petition Mrs Spain, who worked as a pharmacy technician and is now a carer to husband John, has been visiting the town centre every day and meeting with people face to face in order to gain signatures.

She adds: “We stay for an hour a day in the town collecting signatures, talking to people.

Rose Wattam signs the petition for Jean Spain outside Debenhams in Sandgate Road, Folkestone
Rose Wattam signs the petition for Jean Spain outside Debenhams in Sandgate Road, Folkestone

“Staff have signed it, visitors to the town, the market traders.

“Some people are saying it’s to late and won’t sign it. But the doors aren’t closed yet.

“We hope to send the petition to the directors, the bank, the council, anyone who can support our cause.”

It was revealed in April that four Kent stores are among 22 that will close next year as part of Debenhams' debt restructuring plans. The store in Folkestone was included among those earmarked for closure.

“Some people are saying it’s to late and won’t sign it. But the doors aren’t closed yet..." Jean Spain

Hours after the announcement, Folkestone and Hythe District Council unveiled plans to revitalise the shopping district, including opening a cinema at the Debenhams site.

An online petition was set up on Change.org by Callum Oakley in response to the cinema proposal, arguing a second one was not needed alongside the existing Silver Screen.

Mrs Spain said she prefers the more personal approach when it comes to a petition.

She said: “It’s important to see and talk to people, rather than pushing a button.

Debenhams in Folkestone
Debenhams in Folkestone

"Plus not everyone has access to the internet.”

This is not the couple’s first time joining a campaign.

They previously fought the closure of Pheonix House, a community centre in Sittingbourne where they previously lived.

To support their campaign, look out for John and Jean at Debenhams, which they visit most days.

For the latest business news, click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Folkestone

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