MD Ian Middleton now focusing on independent concessions spaces.
Jewellery retailer Argenteus has closed its last store, located on Oxford’s Cornmarket Street, after 20 years operating in the city where the business was founded.
The shop – the last independent retailer on Cornmarket Street, a prime city-centre location – was shuttered on September 28, with managing director and co-founder Ian Middleton, describing it as "a sad day for us all, not least for the final member of our sales staff who had been with us for over 17 years".
The Argenteus business opened in Oxford in 1994 and in the time since has operated nine stores across the UK, including a flagship space in London’s Covent Garden, which closed last year due to high rents and the changing customer demographic.
The Oxford store represented the last remaining Argenteus store, however Middleton has revealed plans to revive the business name with a rebrand and new retail direction, running independent jewellery concession spaces in department stores.
He said: "The closure of the store was predictably an emotional experience, helped by the hundreds of loyal customers who came in to say how sorry they were to see us go. Happily though, we were delighted to be able to announce our return to Oxford in November in the form of a concession within Oxford’s oldest independent department store – Boswells.
"This marks a new direction for Argenteus and one which we hope to expand on in the coming years. It also prompts a new look for us and a new logo, to be revealed soon. One of the most immediate impacts of the closure of our stores will also be a major reassessment of prices both online and in our new concession."
There are also plans for a new Argenteus website, with a total redesign, and the business is also in the final stages of developing its online designer marketplace, focused on British-made and designed products.
"We’re also mulling our own branded jewellery collection and further expansion via a number of non-traditional channels as well as further concessions if the Boswells trial goes well," Middleton added.
The closure in Oxford follows an enduring battle with landlords to negotiate lease terms, exacerbated by property and running costs. Middleton also notes that the business was impacted by the growing dominance of branded jewellery, the rise of online shopping, the cost of precious metals and the fall in the value of the pound.
He says of the Oxford street on which the store was located: "After being pedestrianised some years ago, Cornmarket has become a nexus for illegal pedlars, unregulated and intrusive street performers and large tour parties who clog up the streets, deterring serious shoppers. This has resulted in a trading environment that is completely at odds with mid- to high-end stores.
"Repeated attempts at engagement with the council to try to get them to address these problems proved frustratingly fruitless. In the last few months a new city centre manager has begun to address these issues, but unfortunately for us this was too little too late as we were already well down the road towards selling the store.
"Our overriding concern was to complete the sale and ensure an orderly departure for Argenteus, whilst also safeguarding the interests our suppliers, designers and employees. It was painfully apparent that such issues were of no interest to our landlords or council departments as they piled on additional delays and costs."
Middleton says the business ended up feeling like "a small business piñata, twisting in the wind while all these various organisations took opportunistic bites out of us".