Jun 14, 2022
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Candy stores on Oxford Street investigated over business rates issues

Jun 14, 2022

UK authorities are taking action against the blight of US-themed ‘candy stores’ on Oxford Street with 30 of them being investigated after allegedly not paying nearly £8 million in business rates.

Photo: Sandra Halliday

One of the most notable side effects of the pandemic for what was once Europe’s busiest shopping street and a magnet for fashion brands was the large number of empty stores on Oxford Street.

Many of these have been filled by stores operating some variation of the American candy store theme, making the street overall look less like a premium shopping destination.

Even if rents are low, the benefit of letting empty stores for under-pressure freeholders or long leaseholders during a tough time for retail is that they’re not then responsible for paying business rates on the properties. But reports said they’re being let to intermediaries who then let them to candy stores on licences. This means it can be difficult to establish the identity of the actual owners of the businesses that are responsible for paying the business rates.

And what they’re selling can also be a problem, apart from it being out of step with the overall profile of Oxford Street. The BBC reported that Westminster City Council has seized about £474,000 of counterfeit, illegal and unsafe goods from American candy and souvenir stores in recent months.

Adam Hug, leader of Westminster City Council, called such stores “eyesores” and “a threat to the status” of Oxford Street. Hug also said landlords were “ turning a blind eye to those who sublet [the stores] as it means they are not liable for business rates”.

A council spokesperson said of the stores that “very few [were] serving sufficient customers to be commercially viable. Instead, we believe that these properties are used to avoid business rate bills and possibly commit other offences”.

The council will be increasing pressure on landlords and has recently written to a number of them “urging them to consider the impact of US sweet shops on Oxford Street”.

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