HISTORIC Oxford bookseller Blackwell’s has closed one of its stores and moved the existing business into its bookshop as it battles to get back into profit.

Blackwell’s Music has uprooted from the store at 23-25 Broad Street with the lease due to end and moved to the basement of the bookshop at 50 Broad Street.

It is the first time the music shop has not been a standalone store in its 63-year history.

Latest financial figures show Blackwell’s is pushing to get back into the black to hand ownership of the firm over to its employees.

All 20 staff have been kept at the music store which sells printed music, instruments, accessories and classical, jazz and folk recordings.

Company spokesman Katie Perrior added: “The lease is coming to an end and we have decided it’s better for the overall business to have everything in one place. Rent is not a factor.”

She added customers had complained about the lack of wheelchair access at the old store and found the layout difficult to navigate.

Manager Luke Rickett added: “We will have the same amount of stock generally and we have expanded the number of instruments.

“The space was there and we can take advantage of the footfall of the main shop.”

The bookshop’s travel and local interest sections, which formerly occupied the basement, have now been moved into the main store.

Blackwell’s Music has been in Broad Street for 12 years, having moved from Holywell Street where it was set up in 1950. The building at 23-25 Broad Street is owned by Oxford City Council.

Council spokesman Chris Lee said the lease ends in June and the property will be marketed after that but he was unable to confirm whether the rent had been hiked.

Graham Jones, spokesman for city centre retailers’ group ROX, said: “The company is facing up to market trends and changing shopping styles. They have to weigh up their needs and make changes as appropriate.”

Blackwell’s, which was set up at 50 Broad Street by Benjamin Blackwell in 1879, moved out of its headquarters, Beaver House, in Hythe Bridge Street, in 2011 with the loss of 25 jobs.

The firm is now run from the bookshop in Broad Street.

But it remains a major employer with more than 500 staff in Oxfordshire.

Owner of the company, Toby Blackwell, plans to hand over ownership to its employees along the lines of the John Lewis model once it returns to profit.

Last year he ploughed £3m into the business himself and latest figures show operating losses were cut to £1.5m in 2012 from £5m the previous year and £10.2m in 2010. As a result, the shift to employee ownership is expected next year. It has made a loss since 2009.

Blackwell’s chairman Trevor Goul-Wheeker said: “The board’s over-riding ambition continues to be to create a sustainably profitable business, which can then be handed over to its employees.”

To mark the move, a month-long series of music events will take place. It started last Saturday with many of the music shop staff playing instruments thoughout the day.

The official opening will take place today.