Empty shelves greet shopper entering Nasons in its dying days

Death of a department store

“Did you shop here?” The voice came from a chatty woman standing behind a sales counter in a room largely stripped of things to buy.

“No,” I conceded. “I haven’t shopped here for years. Not since my mum used to bring me in here in the 1980s.”

“Well, I can tell you didn’t buy that kitchen roll you’re holding in here. You’re the reason this place is closing and we’re losing our jobs.”

I am standing in Nasons at about 9.30am on this overcast Thursday morning in September.

The sales assistant spoke with a smile and was clearly engaging in a kind of gallows humour.

Stripped bare: Nasons will close on Saturday

But what she said is true: in fewer than three shopping days this fixture of the Canterbury High Street will be no more and it’s because of people like me who chose not to shop there.

Her cheery tone did not, however, dispense the aura of death inside the famous store.

Shelves bare. Whole rooms empty. Toy department unlit.

Even the escalator – which looks as if it was imported from the 1980s – sounded like an old man emitting strained guttural noises as it took no one to the upper floor.

I am here suddenly reminded of Lev Tolstoy’s 1886 novella The Death of Ivan Ilych.

It follows the decline from terminal illness of a once prominent district judge in the old Russian Empire. As he gets ever sicker and closer to death, Ivan Ilych is slowly robbed of those things which make him human and which more importantly defined him in his illustrious heyday.

Nasons has been on the same path. It may have only been a shop, but we are nonetheless reminded that few things are forever.

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