Westminster Council to urge National Crime Agency to crack down on rogue Oxford Street US candy shops

·2-min read
Items seized during a raid on a US-style candy shop earlier this year  (Westminster Council)
Items seized during a raid on a US-style candy shop earlier this year (Westminster Council)

Westminster Council will urge the National Crime Agency to investigate firms behind some US-style candy shops on Oxford Street.

The council has previously called on the Government to introduce changes to tackle the shops, with senior officials saying there are more checks to get a library card in the UK than to set up a business.

But in a toughening up of official rhetoric over the stores, council leader Cllr Adam Hug will tell a council meeting on Wednesday that the NCA should take action.

In remarks reported by the Times, Cllr Hug is expected to tell a council meeting on Wednesday: “The rash of candy shops emerged during lockdown and in most cases the traders took advantage of those who simply wanted to fill empty shops to avoid paying business rates.”

According to council officials, more than £1million worth of illegal and counterfeit goods have been seized from US-style candy shops over the past 15 months.

The council will also write to the shops’ freeholders to ask them to consider their part in the proliferation of the shops.

Cllr Hug is expected to say the example of US-style candy shops on Oxford Street, the country’s busiest shopping street, shows the issues of “shop voids, opaque ownership structures and the need for reform of business rates”.

The council says there are now 29 American candy stores on Oxford Street, some of whom owe up to £9 million in unpaid business rates.

The authorities have carried out a series of raids on some of the shops.

Police found 14,000 suspect items from just two shops on Oxford Street in November, and in another raid in October £215,000 worth of fake goods were seized including counterfeit Rolex watches, Apple products and 8,000 vapes with an illegal amount of nicotine.

In a further raid £22,000 worth of fake Wonka chocolate bars were suspected to be own-brand chocolate from supermarkets that had been repackaged — resulting in a 43p chocolate bar being sold for upwards of £8.

It comes after music retailer HMV will return to the location of its first ever shop on Oxford Street.

The company said the new opening marks “the latest sign of a dramatic turnaround” since 2019 when the shop closed.

“It’s fantastic to see this iconic brand back on Oxford Street, where it stood as a driver of music and pop culture in the capital for so long,” Cllr Geoff Barraclough, Westminster City Council’s cabinet member for planning and economic development, said.