IT was gone 1pm on Saturday when the Oxford Mail popped into Rainbow and Spoon.

But the Oxford shop, aside from shelves and rails of prettily-arranged stock, was empty.

Amanda Suliman-Bell, who runs the independent boutique in Frideswide Square, said no customers had walked through the door all day.

Trade has tailed off to such an extent that her sandwich board outside now states: “Leave the big boys at the Westgate. They won’t notice if you don’t visit but we will!”

Mrs Suliman-Bell said she was driven to write the message after custom became ‘abysmal’, after the Westgate’s opening on October 24.

She said: “I hope it picks up but I have a horrible feeling it might have killed Oxford.

“I’ve really noticed a difference. Business has practically disappeared, and this is usually one of my busiest months.

“Before it opened, I was feeling quite confident - we were quite lively. The week before the grand opening it started tailing off, and after, it’s been abysmal.”

She admitted the shop’s location was ‘quite unusual’ but said generally there is passing trade from shoppers walking from Oxford railway station into the city centre.

She added: “It’s funny how people have just stopped crossing the road. I have spoken to Oxford City Council to ask if I can put signage on that side.

“I had to say something [on the board] so people know there is something other than great big chains.”

Rainbow and Spoon shared a photo of the message on its Facebook page, which gained several messages of support.

One customer wrote on the post: “I am in despair over the number of independent shops closing in Oxford.”

Mrs Suliman-Bell was among businesses who saw trade dip during the £6.7m building works to transform Frideswide Square.

She noted Oxford has a strong culture of independent shops, but added: “People always assume everything will be there forever. People do love independents but don’t always spend their money in them.”