THE final countdown for the closure of Boswells department store in Oxford is now under way.

Shoppers were stunned in November when the family-run store, which has been trading since 1738, announced it is to close in 2020.

About 70 employees were called in and told they were being made redundant.

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London-based retail property consultants GCW have been hired to advise Boswells regarding the sale of the city centre building and it is understood that the most likely options for the premises are for a new hotel or office accommodation.

Oxford Mail:

Boswells tweeted: “Our CLOSING DOWN SALE has begun! #ClosingDown #StoreIsClosing #Sale.”

Signs in the windows in Cornmarket and Broad Street are now advertising that the closing down sale is under way and items are reduced by 50 per cent.

No actual closing date has been announced and when asked when the store would close, a member of staff said: “I don’t know. When all the stock is sold I guess.”

Oxford Mail:

Issuing the closure announcement last year, the store said: “The Board has been intensively pursuing all options for preserving the business but due to prevailing adverse retail conditions has concluded that the store is likely to close in 2020.

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“GCW have been appointed to deal with all enquiries in respect of the property.”

Part of the Boswells building - the Broad Street side - is leased from the city council and it is understood that the lease runs until 2059.

Two of four directors, Sarah Pearson and Jonathan Pearson, are cousins and descendants of Arthur Pearson - their great-grandfather - who took over the business in 1890.

They met the two other directors for a meeting in Windsor and arrived at the decision to consult GCW with a view to selling the building.

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Mr Pearson told the Oxford Mail in November: “This is not a decision we have taken lightly - it is very much a last resort.

Oxford Mail:

“At a briefing in August we told staff that in 2020 we would either be closing or making significant changes resulting in redundancies.

“The business is not making money and has not done for a couple of years - you can not go on like that forever and we want to come to an end in a controlled way.

“Our first concern is the staff - this will come as a shock to some of them.

“We want to thank all our staff and our customers for their support over the years.”

Talks are believed to be under way regarding the sale of the premises.

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Part of the Boswells building - the Broad Street side - is leased from the city council and it is understood that the lease runs until 2059.

GCW and the Pearsons declined to comment further.

Oxford Mail:

Debenhams branch in Witney closed last month and the future of Oxford’s Magdalen Street branch opposite Boswells is still uncertain.

It is understood that more than 100 of the chain’s 166 UK stores have had their rents cut, staving off the threat of closure, in line with a Company Voluntary Agreement.