A BICESTER clothing store has closed as part of a major company restructuring, leaving another empty unit in the town centre.

Fashion chain M&Co has become one of the latest high street brands to call in administrators amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It announced to staff in a video conference call on Tuesday evening that it would be closing 47 stores across the country, including its shop on Sheep Street, and will axe 380 jobs to secure the company’s long-term future.

It joins jewellery shop H. Samuel and card shop Clintons, which have closed for good in Bicester town centre this year.

Marks & Spencer will also close its doors before it moves to Bicester Shopping Park on the outskirts of town and Pizza Express, which has a restaurant in Market Square, announced on Tuesday that it plans to shut around 67 of its sites in the UK, putting up to 1,100 jobs at risk.

Residents say the Bicester has become a 'ghost town'.

Priscilla Muriel commented on Facebook: "So sad. I feel sorry for the staff. Another shop gone. Bicester won't have anything left at this rate. I hope all the staff find something else soon."

Helen Haydon, whose daughter worked at M&Co in Bicester, said: "It's awful, Bicester will have no real shops in the town soon, it makes me really sad. The town used to be a hive of activity everyday with amazing stores to visit, now it's just a shell."

Bicester Chamber of Commerce says it recognised and raised concerns for the national high street issue back in early 2019, well before the Covid-19 outbreak, but that the pandemic has 'intensified' the situation for some businesses.

It is working with other organisations to bring energy back into the town.

Graham Perryman, chair of the group said: "The Chamber has been actively involved since then in making the town centre regeneration a priority and as such have been working collaboratively with local businesses, Bicester Vision and Cherwell District Council to support its revival ever since.

"As we recover from the pandemic there will be other plans and initiatives that seek to re-invigorate and support our wonderful town centre."

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The Chamber ran an initiative over the last three months to support businesses in the town centre that also trade online in the form of a 'virtual high street' with over 60 businesses taking part.

Mr Perryman added: "Sheep Street was really bustling today with many taking advantage of the cafes and shops that have now reopened. We of course encourage all local residents to shop locally and visit our high street to show their support for it."

M&Co said it will continue to run 218 stores with 2,200 employees after completing the restructuring, having hired administrators in April.

Chief executive Andy McGeoch said the company took a 'huge financial hit' after having to shut its stores in March due to the pandemic.

He said: “We reopened most stores in June and have been exploring every possible option, but it was obvious that the business, as previously structured, would remain under severe pressure from the ongoing challenges of Covid-19.

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“It quickly became clear the best way to save most jobs and most stores was to enter administration, with a new company acquiring the assets of the old business, and this process has now been finalised.”

Other branches across the county in Wantage and Witney have also closed.