First look at The Range in Ashford as it prepares to open in former John Lewis store Most popular

The Range will open in Ashford’s empty John Lewis today – almost exactly a year since the upmarket chain pulled out of the town.

Staff have spent two weeks kitting out the two-storey shop which has a mini Iceland supermarket and an Iceland Cafe.

Planning permission was granted earlier this week for the company to turn a section of the car park into an garden centre, but work on that part of the site is yet to begin.

Once built, the 464 sq m area will be at the side of the store taking up 16 parking spaces, reducing the overall total to 183.

The first look inside The Range in Ashford as it prepares to open

Charley Robinson, store manager said: "Seeing the store go from a blank canvas to how it is now is a phenomenal outcome.

"Staff have worked so hard to get us to this point and it's all down to the team.

"We still have more to come like the garden centre, that's the exciting thing about The Range, it just keeps giving.

"This is a flagship store, the building and the stuff we sell is amazing, it's the perfect location for us and hopefully we can bring more to the town."

Although the outdoor garden centre won’t open on Friday, The Range says the store will feature its “popular home and garden products”.

First look at The Range in Ashford as it prepares to open in former John Lewis store Most popular

The home decor and garden sections are on the ground floor alongside the mini Iceland.

Upstairs is outdoor furniture, bathroom accessories, lighting and the highly anticipated Iceland Cafe.

Seasonal items for the Queen's jubilee, Easter and Mother's Day are also on sale throughout the shop.

Ashford Borough Council has allowed a “modest variation” in the range of goods allowed to be sold at the store, which previously had to be within the bulky goods sector to protect the viability of the town centre.

Commenting on the opening, authority leader Cllr Gerry Clarkson (Con) said: “We were sad to see the closure of John Lewis’s Ashford store but understand it was a commercial decision that affected a number of At Home stores nationally.

“Changes to shopping habits have meant that the national retail picture has had to adapt and retailers will come and go but the fact that another company has chosen to invest in Ashford is a positive sign.

“We are pleased to welcome The Range and what it will offer our residents and visitors and wish them every success.”

The Plymouth-based company is investing £1.2 million into the unit, which sits off Fougeres Way overlooking the Drovers Roundabout.

It had previously been linked to the yet-to-be-built ‘Drovers Retail Park’ next to the ex-John Lewis site, but chiefs said last year how their “primary focus” is on “second-hand” units which have become empty.

The former Debenhams and M&S stores in County Square were considered, but neither was deemed suitable.

Home Bargains, which is currently based on the Warren Retail Park, is set to replace The Range on the ‘Drovers Retail Park’, joining a Costa Coffee, vets and five other shops.

Some vacancies are still available but once at full capacity, the store will have created 95 jobs.

The Range will be open from 9am to 8pm Monday to Saturday, and between 10.30am and 4.30pm on Sundays.