Amelia is a freelance journalist who writes for the Guardian, Vice, Wired and the New Statesman.
Why is central London suddenly full of American sweetshops?
We're closing off 2021 re-sharing some of our favourite pieces of the year. In June, Amelia Tait reported on a new wave of American candy stores taking over central London. There is a stretch of pavement on Oxford Street – beneath the London College of Fashion and just before the department store John Lewis – where the air mysteriously smells of bubblegum. It’s not that it’s a popular place to vape; there’s no abundance of pink sticky stuff underfoot. Instead, the smell emanates from a tiny plastic tube protruding from a locked purple box next to a small tower of ‘Chips Ahoy!’ breakfast cereal. If you look closely, you can even see the steady stream of scented mist. This aroma-diffusing technology is designed to entice customers into Kingdom of Sweets, a fluorescent candy shop filled with Twinkies, Oreos, Cheetos, and a four-foot Big Ben made of Kit Kats and Cadbury’s Eclairs. Why would a sweetshop on the UK’s busiest shopping street need to resort to pumping out clouds of gas to get punters through the door? It might have something to do with the amount of local competition. If you walk from Kingdom of Sweets towards Marble Arch, you’ll pass American Candy Land, Worldwide Candy: The House of American Candy and, four doors down from that, the words ‘American Candy’ printed on a blue banner covering an old shop name. Look over the road: there’s Candy Surprise. If you walk back towards Tottenham Court Road, you’ll pass Candy Shop, American Candy, American Candy World, and –