Jeweller questions whether Oxford high street has lost its sparkle

Jeweller Ian Middleton has penned an open letter to Oxford City Council, claiming more needs to be done to help small businesses and bring the high street back to its former glory.

The former Oxford jeweller started his retail career on Oxford high street, where he traded for two decades before shutting shop.

The retail expert wrote in an open letter that Oxford has become a “scruffy, poorly-managed clone town, trading on its past glories”, and called for the Council to do more to help small businesses.

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Middleton said information from the city council obtained through a Freedom of Information request showed that £31m of business rate relief was Government-led, rather than anything set up by the authority.

He had asked for the information following the closure of the Combibos Coffee bar in Gloucester Green in June.

The Hanss family who ran the coffeee shop blamed the impact of the revamped Westgate Centre, claiming Oxford had ‘lost the sparkle’ it had when the business was launched over ten years ago, a sentiment Middleton agrees with.

In his open letter Middleton said the cabinet member responsible for the city centre, Mary Clarkson, had “implied” that it was giving help to businesses after the coffee bar’s closure on its own accord. He insisted the money was coming from the Government, claiming it was “misleading and disingenuous” for the Council to “claim credit”.

When it came it came to responding to Middleton’s open letter the City Council focused more on the claim that the high street has become “scruffy” rather than on the retail issue which is whether they are doing enough the help small businesses.

According to local press, Clarkson said: “WHILE of course everyone is entitled to their opinion, I think the Banbury parliamentary candidate, Ian Middleton’s description of Oxford as ‘a scruffy, poorly-managed clone town, trading on its past glories’ is one the vast majority of people who live in our 1,000-year-old city would reject.

Retail has been having a tough time across the UK, evidenced by the number of high street names that have gone to the wall, but Oxford continues to buck the national trend. People are increasingly looking for destinations and experiences when they shop – the very opposite to the quick convenience of online shopping. Oxford has these in abundance and this puts us in a strong place.”

Ian Middleton has since written responding to the Council’s latest comments, and trying to shift the attention back to the real problem at hand.

To read Middleton’s post CLICK HERE.

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