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American candy store, Oxford Street, London
Photograph: Alena Veasey /

How Oxford Street is being reclaimed from American candy shops

Westminster Council has announced that small businesses will be able to take over former sweet shops rent free

India Lawrence
Written by
India Lawrence

American candy shops became so ubiquitous on Oxford Street over the past couple of years they were practically living in our heads rent-free. But now, it’s small businesses that will get to thrive on Oxford Street rent-free, literally. 

A new initiative by Westminster Council called Meanwhile On: Oxford Street will allow up-and-coming businesses to open in the sites of closed-down candy shops without paying rent, while also having their business rates cut by 70 percent. The free rent will last for the first six months of the stores opening. It comes as part of a scheme to regenerate central London’s waning high street. 

Up to 35 businesses will be offered spots to open their first store, with the first shops expected to open in August. The shops will also be helped with store design, mentoring, management and marketing support from independent retail consultants, Someday Studios and Westminster City Council.

Westminster Council has been cracking down on US sweet shops after many were discovered to be fronts for illegitimate businesses. In November 2022 one third of the stores had been shut down and by March 2023 the Met Police had seized £1 million worth of goods from the shops. 

Councillor Geoff Barraclough, Cabinet Member for Planning and Economic Development said: ‘The West End has recovered quickly from the pandemic but there are still too many vacant units and poor-quality occupants. That’s why we’ve set up Meanwhile On: Oxford Street to help fill the gaps with upcoming brands showcasing their innovative new ideas.

‘I am excited to welcome new brands to one of the most famous streets in Europe, and support them with free rent, reduced business rates and help with promoting their businesses.’

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