Oxford’s oldest department store, Boswell & Co, is set to close next year after trading for almost 300 years.
Francis Boswell started selling travel goods at 50 Cornmarket Street in 1738, and the business remained in the Boswell family until the line of direct succession ended in 1890 after which the business was passed to Arthur Pearson, the then owner of the Oxford Drug Company.
Two of the four directors, Sarah Pearson and Jonathan Pearson, are descendants of Arthur Pearson.
The company has put the likely closure down to “adverse retail conditions”, and told its 70 staff that they are facing redundancy.
It is understood that the part of the Boswells building on Broad Street side is leased from the city council until 2059, and London-based retail property consultancy GCW is advising Boswells on disposal of the building.
Gordon Mitchell, Chief Executive of Oxford City Council, said: “Everyone in Oxford would be sad to see Boswells close. It has been an important fixture of our wonderful city for more than 280 years.
“The owners of Boswells have a long-term lease on the site and are considering their options. The City Council, as the freeholder of part of the site, will work with the owners to try to achieve the best outcome for the city.
“Although it would be sad to see Boswells close, it is worth stating that Oxford city centre, despite the internet and changing shopping habits, is performing significantly better than most city centres in the UK. Around half a billion pounds has been invested in Oxford city centre in recent years; significant redevelopments are on-going by Jesus, Lincoln and Nuffield colleges and in the Covered Market; and there have been more than a dozen new retail or food and beverage openings in recent months.”
A recent report showed that the number of vacant retail units in Oxford City Centre was set for a significant fall.