SOME independent shops across Oxfordshire will 'inevitably' close as a result of the coronavirus lockdown, according to a retail expert.

Retail consultant Keith Slater, a director of Oxfordshire Town Chambers Network, said Boris Johnson's pledge to reopen some shops in a phased way from June 1 would not come soon enough for some businesses.

"It's inevitable that some shops will not reopen and small independent retailers in Oxfordshire's market towns like Witney, Banbury and Chipping Norton will be hit harder than Oxford," said Mr Slater.

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Historic department store Boswells in Oxford closed for good last month.

Mr Slater spoke out after Mr Johnson's announcement on Sunday on how to ease the lockdown, which started in March to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The Prime Minister said by June 1 at the earliest – after half term – the government may be in a position to begin the phased reopening of shops and to get primary pupils back into schools, in stages, beginning with reception, Year 1 and Year 6m and he pledged to set out detailed guidance on how to make this work 'in schools and shops and on transport'.

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Since the lockdown was introduced in March, only shops selling essential items have been permitted to remain open.

Mr Slater said traders, particularly smaller businesses relying on cash flow, would be 'relieved' that there is now a proposal to allow shops to reopen in the near future.

But he added that trading conditions would be very different once stores were allowed to welcome back customers.

He added: "The big chains like Next and Primark are already drawing up plans on how they will operate once lockdown is lifted - there will be a limited number of customers inside the store and social distancing guidelines will have to be adhered to.

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"It's going to be difficult for clothes shops like Next and River Island as they have a high stock density and there is very little room to move between the displays, so the way people walk round browsing will have to change."

Mr Slater said he expected there to be a phased reopening of stores and he predicted trading conditions would not get back to normal until this time next year.

He said: "When some shops reopened in Germany the footfall was very low – Oxford has lost all its tourists and until they return it's still going to be quite quiet.

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"Some people on lockdown have had wage cuts so they don't have as much money and they are also more used to buying online."

Some Debenhams branches have closed after the chain went into administration but Mr Slater said he understood that the Oxford branch would stay open, together with the city's John Lewis at the Westgate Centre.

While some shops could reopen next month, Mr Johnson said pubs and restaurants could reopen in July but only if they could maintain safe social distancing measures.

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Four in 10 British pubs won’t survive beyond September unless they get extra support from the government to see them through the lockdown, the industry’s trade body has said.

The British Beer and Pubs Association (BBPA) said a survey of its members found that 19,000 out of the UK’s 47,000 pubs believe they may be forced to shut their doors for good within months, at a cost of 320,000 jobs.

The BBPA said in the run-up to Mr Johnson's proposal that an autumn reopening would leave pubs on a knife edge, with many expecting to run out of cash before the end of September.

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Dave Richardson, of the Oxford branch of real ale organisation CAMRA, said: "Some pubs in Oxford could have to close – they don't have the resources to last for much longer.

"Some have accessed loans and furloughed staff but the consequences of long-term closures much beyond the summer will be very serious.

"It's going to be hard when pubs do reopen because they will have to limit the numbers to ensure social distancing.

"The sooner pubs can reopen the better.

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"CAMRA believes there should be a bespoke support scheme from the government for pubs, including those which have had to keep paying rent without having any customers."

Mr Richardson said it could be pubs with large outdoor areas that are allowed to reopen first and this would favour pub chains with larger premises.

He added: "The small independent pub is under threat as never before."

The Oxford Mail's #StillopeninOxfordshire campaign is backing local independent businesses which continue to trade during the lockdown.