Oxford Street is set for a major revamp as Westminster City Council launches a new £10m scheme to transform London’s iconic high street.
The council will make shops vacated by illicit candy stores, which have blighted the leading retail destination, available to small business owners rent free and lower their business rates by 70 per cent.
For now, the scheme, known as ‘Meanwhile On: Oxford Street’ will offer nine units to businesses who are looking to launch their first store, with the first small firms expected to set up shop in August.
“The West End has recovered quickly from the pandemic but there are still too many vacant units and poor-quality occupants,” Councillor Geoff Barraclough, cabinet member for planning and economic development said.
“I am excited to welcome new brands to one of the most famous streets in Europe,” he said.
The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) said the program would help increase footfall and provide tourists from across the UK and around the world with the “ultimate London shopping experience they are looking for”.
“We strongly back this great initiative by Westminster City Council to ensure that the capital’s premier shopping thoroughfare continues to flourish with innovative and forward-looking brands,” James Watkins, head of policy at LCCI, told City A.M.
“During this cost of living crisis, it is critical that there are initiatives to help small businesses not just survive but thrive,” he added.
Martin McTague, head of the Federation of Small Businesses, told City A.M. it was a “great initiative”.
“New brands will reinvigorate the West End… getting a chance to establish themselves in a space that would ordinarily be far outside their budget,” he said, adding that the model could be applied more widely.
In recent months, plans have been made to crack down on the candy stores.
In March, the Met sized up to £140k worth of illegal goods including vapes with excessive amounts of nicotine.
Speaking to City A.M in March, Councillor Adam Hug, leader of Westminster City Council said that taking down these sites would be a “sophisticated operation” and owners of these stores are “skilled at exploiting UK legal loopholes”.