HISTORIC department store Boswells will almost certainly never reopen following the government lockdown prompted by the coronavirus crisis.

All shops deemed non-essential have been forced to close and only the pharmacy at the store on the corner of Cornmarket and Broad Street remains open to the public but this is due to shut for good on Saturday, April 11, according to its long-serving pharmacist Adil Cowan.

He said: “Boswells - the whole store - was due to shut today but because of coronavirus it shut even sooner.

Oxford Mail:

“The pharmacy will carry on until April 11 and officially closes the Tuesday after Easter.

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“It’s the end of an era and a great tragedy for the high street but that’s it, the main store will never reopen - Boswells has gone.”

Mr Cowan added that the coronavirus lockdown had ‘speeded up’ the closure of Boswells, which began serving customers in 1738.

The pharmacist, who has worked in the store since 2001, said there were now only a few staff left in the building.

Oxford Mail:

“It was pointless for staff to come in and just stand around,” he added.

Shoppers were shocked in November when Boswells directors announced they were consulting retail property consultants GCW regarding the sale of the building.

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A source close to GCW said the consultants believed the store was already shut.

One possibility is for the building to be used as a hotel although it may take time for any deal to be agreed in the current economic climate when businesses are struggling as a result of the lockdown.

Director Jonathan Pearson said in November trading could not continue as the store was no longer profitable and 70 staff were given the news at a meeting.

Oxford Mail:

He confirmed the store was almost certain to close in 2020 but no specific closure date was given. Mr Pearson was unavailable for comment.

Shoppers visiting Boswells said at the time they were saddened to hear of closure.

June Mack, 86, from north Oxford, said: “I think this is a tragedy for the city - Boswells is the go-to shop for everything.

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“I moved here in 2012 and I have been coming here ever since - I get off the bus and go straight to Boswells - there’s so much under one roof and I will be sorry to see bit go.”

Another shopper said: “This is a shock and its very sad - technology does not help - high streets will be dead in 10 years’ time.”

Pamela Rae-Walsh posted on the Facebook Nostalgic Oxford page: “Dear Boswells - today you announced your closure, and I think with it you announced the closure of a part of my soul.”

Oxford Mail:

Boswells leases part of the site from the city council and the council has pledged to work with the owners to try to find the best outcome for the city.

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At the same time, the future of the Debenhams store opposite remains in doubt.

The retailer is set to appoint administrators as early as next week. The chain has already closed 22 stores this year and plans to shut a further 28 in 2021.