Published: 06:00, 07 December 2020
When 2020 dawned, the prospects for many retailers was one of dogged determination amid a backdrop of falling giants and evolving shopping habits.
But then no-one could have imagined of quite the seismic shift which would shake the foundations of every business courtesy of the pandemic.
The first lockdown, ushered in at the end of March, would last for the best part of three months. The second, in November, a further four weeks. That's a third of the year for which the doors of many businesses were forced to be kept shut.
It swiftly became apparent that, despite the various support schemes in place, plenty of big names would not reappear.
It was, remarkably, only January when a number of our major town centres faced the reality of losing their long-cherished branch of Debenhams.
The retailer had announced the year before that stores in Folkestone, Ashford, Canterbury and Chatham - all key cogs in their local economies - were to shut up for good. Petitions were launched, campaigns waged. They did little good.
And, in truth, given the tsunami of catastrophic challenges which have crashed across our high streets and town centres this year, even if they had survived then it would been a short-lived stay of execution.
Because as we cling to the hope that 2021 will bring a return to something approaching the reality we were once all used to, Debenhams will not be part of retail hubs.
Its collapse into liquidation means its remaining stores in Gravesend and Thanet's Westwood Cross are now living on borrowed time as stock is sold-off. It had been in administration since April as it struggled to compete with more nimble and versatile online competitors. It's big, rent-rich sprawling stores relied on footfall. It spent much of the year with none at all. Little wonder it had been teetering on the brink.
The final nail in its coffin was the collapse into administration of the Arcadia Group - a once mighty name in the retail world under the stewardship of Sir Philip Green; a man apparently originally touted to front the BBC's Apprentice show.
While the Arcadia name rang few bells for many, its portfolio of brands had provided the fashion backbone to many of the county's town centres over recent decades.
Topshop, Burton, Miss Selfridge, Evans, Wallis, TopMan, Dorothy Perkins were the outfitters of a generation. But the new generation was turning, instead, to online brands such as Asos and Boohoo - for whom the closure of bricks and mortar retailers this year simply drove customers into their arms.
The Arcadia brands had also seen their clout lessened by the cut-price likes of Primark, emerging across the country and becoming every town's 'must have' retailer.
As the largest concessions partner for Debenhams, its failure effectively spelt the end of takeover talks between JD Sports and Debenhams.
And they are far from alone. Fashion retailers, already struggling with our changing shopping habits, found 2020 akin to wading through mud for much of the time.
Oasis and Warehouse's Icelandic bank owner Kaupthing announced in April it was unable to find a new buyer and had no plans to reopen after lockdown.
Oasis had stores in Maidstone, Bluewater, Bexleyheath, Bromley and Tenterden.
Vintage fashion chain Cath Kidston shut all 60 of its UK stores in April too as financial pressures grew - which meant an end to its outlets in Canterbury, Bluewater and Ashford's Designer Outlet.
In November, Peacocks and Jaeger both found themselves administration. Both part of Edinburgh Woollen Mill, takeover talks collapsed leaving staff clinging to the hope of a last-gasp takeover rescuing their jobs.
It meant the now all too familiar site of 'closing down' sales taking place at stores in the likes of Ashford and Maidstone.
Also potentially bowing out for good is Bonmarche, the fashion brand with outlets in Canterbury, Folkestone, Tonbridge, Ramsgate and Gravesend amongst others, after it too went into administration earlier this month - the second time it has done so this year. As with so many stores in the hands of administrators, the talks will continue to try and sell off some of their assets - it remains to be seen in what form.
Monsoon Accessorize went into administration in June - although a rescue deal with its founder saw it continue to live another day. However, the financial rollercoaster caused it to permanently keep the doors closed of its outlets in Canterbury, Bexleyheath, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells.
With health clubs and many sports forced to rest up for much of the year, little wonder the impact has been felt in that sector too.
Laura Ashley is a name beloved by middle class shoppers - but after a long struggle, the lockdown saw their luxury curtains finally come down on its stores as it fell into administration and saw the end of outlets in Maidstone and Westwood Cross - along with its six other Kent branches - as part of a nationwide closure.
And the year started on a poor note for furniture store Beales, which had an outlet in Tonbridge, after it nosedived after mounting debts forced it to pay a high price.
But amid all the gloom there has been some good news. Go Outdoors, which fell into administration in June just as everyone decided to go camping, was saved from impending full-scale closure by JD Sports.
Oak Furnitureland looked destined to join the ranks of the fallen but was bought out of administration, as was Benson Beds.
And if you're into your cheeky underwear, then Victoria's Secret was snapped up by Next after going into administration to live to fight another day.
Simply Scuba in Faversham - a shop which became many's first choice when planning a jaunt to where the seas were turquoise blue and bath-warm - faced some choppy waves this year, as you can probably understand, but has since become part of the Internet Fusion Group allowing it to continue to trade.
There's no denying 2021 will bring plenty more challenges and, inevitably, we should brace ourselves for further high profile casualites.