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‘Rent and rates’ lead to The Works closing
BUDGET book store The Works is to quit Oxford at the end of March.
Bosses at the Cornmarket Street branch said while sales are good, they are leaving because of rent costs and business rates.
Spokesman Alison Puente said: “It is with a lot of regret that we are closing the store.
“It hasn’t been sparked by a rent increase. However, keeping the store at the current rent level is not commercially viable.
“The lease has come up for renewal and the landlord wasn’t able to negotiate.”
The loss of the store – which came to the city in 1998 – follows the loss of Jessops, Comet and Blockbuster this year. It is not known who will take over the site.
Mrs Puente added: “Unfortunately we do have to look after the health of the overall business. The store at the Westgate Centre will remain open.
“We will be actively looking for a new location – Oxford is good for us.”
Assistant manager Jennie Hawkes said: “We are disappointed and we have had lots of customers in saying how good the shop has been.”
Of the nine employees, five have been moved to other branches in the county.
Graham Jones, spokesman for traders’ group Rox said: “It is a pity – The Works has become a bit of a fixture there.
“Oxford has been pretty robust up to now, but we are trying to get the message across that there’s no room for complacency.”
Matthew Clulee, 44, owner of Matthew Clulee Hair Salon, in Ship Street, in the city centre, said: “We are all struggling with our rents.
“My landlords have been really good and have helped me a lot. They have been very understanding of the trade we’re in and our location.
“There has been a much lower footfall in the centre of Oxford over the last few months.”
Samantha Bennett, 41, owner of the Oxford Sandwich Company in the Covered Market, added: “There’s so many shops that keep opening and closing that it is hard to keep up.
“But the rents have gone up and the footfall has at least halved to what it was last year.”
HISTORY OF THE BUILDING
The Cornmarket Street building which has been home to The Works since 1998, at number 36, has a rich history.
It was the Granby’s Head pub in 1794 and other names included the Marquis of Granby (1842) and Leopold Arms (1880).
Around 1905 it was split into two businesses, with a pub called the Northgate Tavern on the left and a shop on the right.
Tenants included Rudge-Whitworth Ltd, outdoor shop Milletts and the Oxford and District Co-operative Society.
From 1970, Music Centre Record Dealers were on site, before the Northgate Tavern closed on November 22, 1971.
It was vacant through 1972, when it was converted into two shops.
From 1973 to 1980 it was shared by Martin Ford Ltd and the Harlequin Record Shop.
Other tenants have included Jean Jeanie, West World Leather and the Jean Factory.
HIGH STREET CASUALTIES
- Borders, bookshop, Magdalen Street; closed in 2009, now a Tesco Metro
- Woolworths, Templars Square, Cowley; closed in 2008, now a 99p store
- Oddbins, wine seller, High Street; closed in 2012, now clothing store Sweaty Betty
- Julian Graves, wholefoods seller, Westgate Centre; closed in 2012, now clothing retailer Loud
- Past Times, retro goods, Turl Street; closed in 2012, now leather goods store The Leather Shop