Oxford's oldest department store Boswells set to close

image copyrightBoswells
image captionBoswells has been trading in Oxford since 1738

Oxford's oldest department store is set to close next year after more than 280 years in business.

Boswell & Co has been trading since 1738 and is the city's largest independent department store, fondly known for its array of toys, haberdashery and home accessories.

A meeting took place earlier where its 70 employees were told they were facing redundancy.

The company blamed the closure on "adverse retail conditions".

Boswells started life as a travel goods store run by Francis Boswell in 1738.

It was bought by Arthur Pearson in the 1890s, and Jonathan Pearson, his great-grandson, is one of the current directors.

Mr Pearson called it a "sad moment because it goes back a long time, but I'm more worried about the effect it's going to have on my staff than the effect it's going to have on my nostalgia".

He said it was "extremely likely" the store would close in 2020.

'Traditional store'

He added: "We've been under pressure for a number of years, and more recently in the last couple of years have been losing money."

Board members decided on Monday that the only option left was to close the business.

Mr Pearson said the city's new Westgate shopping centre had not been a contributing factor, saying it was more the "nature of the business".

"We are a traditional old store, much loved by people in Oxford, but unfortunately they're not spending in the way they used to."

One staff member, who did not want to be named, told the BBC the announcement came as no surprise, and described the working atmosphere of late as "too relaxed and directionless".

They added: "I went to Boswells as a child - it was the toy shop your parents took you to as a nice treat. I have fond memories of the place.

"It's poignant because it reflects the bigger problem with the retail environment, in Oxford especially. There are so many shops going and they're not being replaced."

Retail property consultant GCW is now working with Boswells to sell the building.

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