OXFORD’S oldest shop is embracing the internet age and creating an online store for the first time in its 276-year history.

Today Boswell’s of Oxford will launch its first online shop, allowing customers from all over the world to browse its historic shelves from their sofas.

But for them, the human touch is still key to their service, and the company will be providing a live chat service for its customers to ask questions.

Becky Jones, the department store’s e-commerce manager, and said: “We do already have a website, but it was more for information than being able to buy anything.

“This is a replacement website.

“Our customers have been asking us for it.”

She added: “We are traditional, but you don’t last more than 270 years if you don’t change with the times.

“It’s not that we haven’t wanted to do it before now, we were just making sure that enough of the customer base wanted it.

“We wanted it to be professional and reflect the values of Boswell’s.

“Now, most emails we get are from people checking if products are in store.

“With our new website they will be able to check more easily, even if they don’t want to buy online.”

The department store – which sells kitchenware, gifts, linens, luggage, cosmetics and toys - was first opened on Cornmarket Street in 1738 by Francis Boswell.

The Oxford Times:

  • The old exterior

The business remained in the Boswell family until 1890, when it was taken over by Arthur Pearson, the owner of the Oxford Drug Company.

The Oxford Times:

  • Boswell’s at the Oxfordshire Show in 1954

Ms Jones said that, despite going online, Boswell’s traditional customer service is still key: “We’ll have everything customers expect to have from an online shop – click and collect, delivery in the UK and internationally.

“We also have a nice little thing where you’re able to repeat orders.

“We have some people who come in and buy the same products every six months or so, so now they can do all that with just one click.

“We will also have a live chat, because the human touch is vital for Boswells.

“That means that in working hours you can ask us questions live as well as call us or send emails.”

The Oxford Times:

  • Inside Boswell’s in 1959

Not all of Boswell’s 35,000 stock lines will be available online straight away, but Ms Jones said staff will continue to upload items after the launch.

She added that the website is not all that’s coming for the department store, saying: “There is quite a lot of change coming this year in store as well, this is only part of it.”

While she wouldn’t reveal what Boswells has planned, she said: “We’re going to expand our offers to customers.”

  • The website, which goes live today is boswells.co.uk

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