Property sector hits back in row over Oxford Street candy store 'blight'
London’s commercial property industry has hit back at a claim landlords are turning a “blind eye” to the growth of US-themed candy shops along Oxford Street.
The accusation comes after Westminster City Council (WCC) launched a probe into 30 stores for alleged non-payment of £7.9 million in business rates.
However, Property Week quoted a spokesperson for West End property giant Grosvenor, which is a freeholder of several units sublet to US-style sweet shops, saying the company fully supports the council’s efforts and that it would never lease directly to these businesses.
The spokesperson also noted that the landlord’s hands were largely tied by long-term leases held by the intermediaries responsible for subletting. “We are looking into a number of possible angles to tackle this, but we are limited in what we can do”, the spokesperson said.
In the wake of the pandemic, Oxford Street has been blighted by a large number of American-style candy stores opening, some of them in quite large formerly empty shops. And there have been accusations that they've been selling illegal goods such as counterfeit and unsafe items.
WCC leader Adam Hug has described the shops as a “threat to the status and value of what is supposed to be the nation’s premier shopping street”. He said property owners are ignoring the sublet issue “as it means they are not liable for business rates. That’s why we have a rash of US candy stores in prestige locations.”
The council wrote to 28 landlords on the prime central London street, from whom the stores are sublet, saying that it was “stepping up pressure on landlords to make it clear they are responsible for Oxford Street being overrun with these kinds of stores”.
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