Over the past few months, the people of London have noticed an increasing number of American themed sweet shops springing up on their streets.
Even the old location of HMV's flagship London store has been replaced by one of these outlets selling a wide range of colourful candies from across the pond, and many people have been surprised at the sheer number of them which have suddenly appeared.
Plenty of people have been curious how these shops make money considering how expensive some of the sweets on offer are and that almost nobody is ever spotted going in.
Stores in prime locations selling hugely expensive sweets that hardly anyone ever seems to buy paints a picture that doesn't add up in the minds of many.
It doesn't add up to Westminster City Council either, as they have launched an investigation into 30 of these shops on Oxford Street over concerns they have failed to report millions in business rates.
The sweet shops are under investigation over business rates evasion amounting £7.9 million.
Almost half a million pounds worth of counterfeit and illegal goods from American candy stores and souvenir shops has already been seized.
Some of the stores are also accused of selling out of date stock and failing to display prices.
Adam Hug, leader of Westminster city council, spoke out against the 'eyesore' of American sweet shops that had sprung up across the city.
He said: "Anyone walking down Oxford Street is struck by the ever expanding number of US style sweet shops and poor quality souvenir outlets.
"They are not only an eyesore, they are a threat to the status and value of what is supposed to be the nation’s premier shopping street."
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. As I was telling @VanessaOnAir we need landlords to take responsibility about who they let to pic.twitter.com/BahCAYegby— Adam Hug (@AdamHug) June 15, 2022
He called out building owners for 'turning a blind eye' to the subletting of their properties, suggesting that many of the stores under investigation are not 'commercially viable' and have been 'cheating the UK taxpayer' along with 'swindling their customers'.
"The problem is owners of buildings are turning a blind eye to those who sublet them as it means they are not liable for business rates."
He then tweeted a picture of over £100k worth of 'counterfeit or illegal goods' seized directly from American sweet shops, including thousands of fake Wonka bars and boxes of disposable vapes.
Westminster City Council has written to 28 freeholders urging them to consider the impact American candy stores are having on Oxford Street, which is meant to be the heart of shopping in London.
In addition to the thousands of counterfeit chocolate bars and vapes with excessive nicotine levels, the investigation has also seized piles of counterfeit mobile phone covers and unsafe toys along with many other items.
The sweet shops have apparently been using social media channels such as TikTok, Instagram and YouTube to target a younger audience and encourage children into their stores.
There has reportedly been a recent boost in videos showing kids trying American sweets for the first time and ones which show staff giving out free sweets to people who come into the store.
Featured Image Credit: Trading Standards/Alamy