It has been 15 years since high street stalwart Woolworths went into administration and disappeared from town centres for good.
And with its former home in one Kent town set to be taken over by coffee chain Starbucks, we thought we’d take a look at what else has filled the gaps it left across Kent.
In November 2008, it was announced the company’s 807 stores would close between December 27 and January 5, 2009, after it fell victim to the recession.
Customers across the county were devastated by the news, prompting shoppers to queue outside the doors waiting to pick up last-minute bargains.
Known affectionately as Woolies, its shelves were crammed with goods from lightbulbs, records, cigarettes, toys and most notably pick ‘n’ mix.
There were more than 25 stores up and down the county but when the shelves were stripped bare what opened in its place? And what is there now?
They were among 51 Woolworths, largely in the south east, acquired by the supermarket chain which was said to have created around 2,500 new jobs.
Speaking at the time, then marketing director Nick Canning, said: “We are confident we can help to support the local community in these towns.”
After buying up the empty high street units, posters were displayed above the red and white Woolworths store fronts reading: “New Store Coming Soon. Recruiting Now.”
All four are still serving customers today.
Some, however, were bought by discount retailer 99p Stores.
Hundreds of bargain hunters queued in the early hours outside the shop, even sparking a police presence.
One customer, mum Tracey Anderson, who was 43, said she had arrived at midnight before returning at 3.30am.
She said: “I came to get a camcorder for my youngest daughter and some presents for my grandchildren as it is their birthday soon.”
In 2015, Poundland bought 99p Stores for £55 million and rebranded all the shops under its name.
Yet not all still are. The Ashford branch opened as homeware giant B&M in November 2017 after Poundland bosses closed the store that July to focus on the other unit in County Square.
Work began to renovate the empty shop as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) planned to open more sites as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In Tonbridge, the unit in the High Street closed and opened as a bed shop then a vintage emporium before turning back into a Poundland.
Other discount shops eyed up the Woolworths stores with The Original Factory Shop opening in Tenterden, independent Onkaar Houseware Discount Store in Twydall, and Multi Save in Faversham.
Developers want to knock down the existing structure – previously occupied by Woolworths – and the unit behind to make way for the homes and retail space.
A planning application has been submitted to Swale council by London-based Impact Developments Faversham Ltd, which owns the site.
Documents state the firm wants to “address the significant housing shortage” in the town and add on to a “well-established thriving community.”
When contacted by KentOnline, the owner of the Multi Save business, who did not want to be named, said: “Nothing is going to happen at the moment. We will be staying there.”
Gravesend’s former Woolies, on the corner of King Street and the High Street, has seen its fair share of discount stores open and close including Discount UK, Bargain Buys and Poundworld Plus.
Following a major refurbishment, it is now set to reopen as a Starbucks – although it is not known when.
Elsewhere in the county, Primark opened in Chatham, Peacocks in Dover, WHSmith in Hythe, Deichmann in Maidstone (where the former Woolies was split in two – Poundland is in the other half), council office Sheppey Gateway in Sheerness and TopShop (now shut) in Tunbridge Wells, which has since become an Urban Outfitters.
And after 10 years of laying derelict the High Street building in Margate was finally filled as an arts education centre.
In 2017, it was acquired by owners of the now-closed Sands Hotel for almost £2 million but it stood vacant until a year later when The Margate School welcomed students.
It has even re-applied the Woolworths lettering to its exterior.
As the county loses yet another high-street staple as Wilko stores closed this month, shoppers are sure to have been reminded of Woolworths’ demise.
And left with one question – what will be next?