The retail picture in Oxford is changing so fast that it's hard to keep track of all the changes.

And the key reason for so much moving about on the high street is a colossal one - the arrival of the £440m Westgate Centre, which opened in October 2017.

With more than 100 new shops and restaurants the new centre brought with it a tsumani of changes - and some closures along with plenty of opportunities.

Here's a snapshot of some of the high-profile differences.

  • Cornmarket Street has taken a hit - footfall is down while there are more shoppers using Queen Street, and Next, River Island and Moss Bros have gone into the Westgate, with more changes afoot.
  • Northgate House development will start soon on the corner of Market Street, bringing new shops and student accommodation
  • George Street has seen some changes including the departure of Giraffe and Thali restaurants - but American comfort food eatery Glut (pictured below) will soon be opening in its place.
  • Yo Sushi, a staple of Oxford's food scene, closes down on Valentine's Day

Oxford Mail:

  • Queen Street has seen the arrival of Metro Bank, while NatWest has closed its branch at the Cornmarket junction with George Street and opened a new branch in the centre of Cornmarket. The empty banking base could now be a restaurant.
  • Covered Market - There have been plenty of comings and goings here and landlords the city council have pledged there will be a new fishmongers coming soon
  • The Clarendon Centre remains a lively shopping centre off Cornmarket but Zara has switched to Westgate and the Clarendon Centre is waiting for the arrival of discount clothing store TK Maxx. It's likely to open in the spring. The Gap shop will close for a major refit from next month to become a 'Gap Outlet' centre.
  • Broad Street - The Buttery restaurant closed last year, but The Buttery boutique hotel and Oxford Campus Stores continue to be busy.
  • Magdalen Street - There is doubt over the future of department store Debenhams, which is closing a raft of stores nationwide. No final decision has been made over which ones will survive.
  • Gloucester Green - Record store Fopp has gone, lost in the HMV buyout. As has chain restaurant El Mexicana and the Combibos coffee house. There have been strong rumours that bakery Greggs is on its way in, but the company's head office says it has no immediate plans.


Despite the maelstrom of changes one retail expert is convinced Cornmarket will survive as a key shopping location, despite all the challenges facing the high street.

Graham Jones, a member of traders’ group ROX - Promoting Oxford Business, said the pace of change in the city centre in the past three years has been unprecedented.

But he believes that competition from online competitors and a reduction in footfall will not decimate Cornmarket Street.

READ AGAIN: Footfall is down in Cornmarket new retail survey has revealed

A number of major chains, including Next, River Island and Moss Bros have shut in the street to relocate to the £440m Westgate Centre, which opened in October 2017.

But Mr Jones said he was hopeful that a £36m Jesus College upgrade to Northgate House, on the corner of Cornmarket and Market Street, would give traders in the area a vital boost.

READ AGAIN: Debenhams - 20 stores to go but will Oxford be one of them

He added: “The speed of change, including the arrival of the Westgate Centre, has been a huge challenge and I think the next two to three years will also be challenging.

“Westgate, which has massively increased the retail offer in the city has forced some change but we mustn’t hold back on change we need to embrace it - cities do need to be revitalised every so often.

READ MORE: Westgate shoppers boost funding for the city

“Building work is starting on the Jesus College scheme, which will bring improvements, and I am confident that Cornmarket will come through.”

A question mark hangs over the future of the Debenhams store in Magdalen Street after the department store chain said it could close 20 stores nationwide by the end of 2019.

It is not yet known which stores will close but Keith Slater, a director of the Oxfordshire Town Chambers Network, said he was hopeful the Oxford branch would survive as it does not trade on the ground floor and, as a result, would pay less rent and rates than some other Debenhams branches.

READ AGAIN: Golden Cross looks empty and forgotten

Businesses have closed in Gloucester Green, including music store Fopp, chain restaurant El Mexicana and the Combibos coffee store.

Shops have also closed at Golden Cross off Cornmarket and there have been changes at the Covered Market.

Haymans fishmongers closed its unit, together with Macsamillion shoe shop and Hedges butchers.

But there have been new arrivals including Souvlaki Brothers, The Oxford Soap Company and Blue Blood sports store.