TRADERS in Oxford’s Covered Market are launching virtual Google tours of their shops to lift business.

Google photographer Nikhilesh Haval, 39, from Didcot, has been stitching together photos of a number of county sites and shops since November.

He was at Oxford Aromatics in the city’s Covered Market yesterday taking his latest hi-tech snaps.

Oxford Aromatics owner Joy Hetherington says the project could attract more visitors to the market. Traders have voiced concerns about high Oxford City Council rents and a fall in business.

Ms Hetherington, from Wood Farm, said: “We’re obviously not on Google’s Street View as we have no frontage onto a road, but this will allow people to get a feel for the market.

“We are really happy about it but it doesn’t stop me worrying. Trade is dire. It is very quiet and has been for more than a year.

“The tour will show up on Google searches and can also be embedded into our websites.”

A 360-degree virtual tour of Oxford Aromatics, the first of Oxford’s Covered Market shops to sign up, can be seen on Google from next week.

Mr Haval was approached by Google eight months ago after they launched the project as a progression of Street View. One of his first panorama projects was south Oxfordshire’s Dorchester Abbey.

He said: “You will be able to go straight from Google into the shop. I have had a lot of interest from other shops, too.”

The Cake Shop in Oxford’s Covered Market has also signed up and Mr Haval will be photographing it in April.

Owner Sally Davis said: “We are a very visual company and the public love to see what we are doing. That’s why we decided to give it a go.”

Oxford city centre manager Gordon Reid said: “This is a great project where local retailers can promote their business on Google so that people hundreds of miles away can see them.

“We have been working withCovered Market traders to promote their businesses and hope we can work with other retailers in the city to promote them.

“This is a great tool for showcasing what Oxford has to offer to the millions of tourists that visit us each year.”