A number of controversial American-themed sweet shops in central London’s world famous Oxford Street have been raided for counterfeit goods.
On Tuesday, Trading Standards officers from Westminster City Council seized £100,000 of dodgy products being sold from three stores.
The haul included 2,246 out-of-date Wonka Bars, 2,838 counterfeit and unsafe disposable vapes, 223 toys with no safety labels and 1,393 ripped-off mobile phone covers.
The raid was part of around £500,000 of counterfeit and illegal goods removed so far from American candy and souvenir stores on the iconic street.
The council said the raids, following complaints from the public, are linked to an investigation into 30 of the shops on Oxford Street for business rates evasion amounting to nearly £8 million.
Leader of Westminster Council Adam Hug, who came into office in local elections last month, said the shops were “an eyesore” and “a threat to the status of Oxford Street”.
He tweeted a photo of some of the seized chocolate bars on Wednesday and said: “Over £100k worth of counterfeit or illegal goods on my table seized yesterday from American Candy Shops on Oxford Street by our hard working @CityWestminster trading standards officers.”
Sweet shops began dominating the capital’s main street after taking over premises vacated during the COVID pandemic, including HMV’s flagship store which has been taken over by one shop. During coronavirus-related lockdowns, outlets selling food were allowed to stay open.
A spokesperson for the council told Time Out last month that the sweet shops being investigated were "far from regular and legitimate businesses" and that "very few" were serving sufficient customers to be commercially viable. “We believe that these properties are used to avoid business rate bills and possibly commit other offences."
Hug said owners of buildings are “turning a blind eye” to those who sublet them as it means they are not liable for business rates. “That’s why we have a rash of US candy stores in prestige locations. This needs to stop and we will be stepping up pressure on landlords to make it clear they are responsible for Oxford Street being overrun with these kinds of stores.”
Westminster Council has written to 28 freeholders asking them to consider the negative impacts of so many sweet shops on Oxford Street.