Westminster City Council has publicly shamed the landlords of Oxford Street’s candy, vape and souvenir stores and begged them to take action.

In a letter seen by Retail Week, councillor Adam Hug asked the landlords of Oxford Street to do “all that they can” to bring the rise of American candy stores, vape and souvenir shops on the street to an end.

Hug has written to 19 major property groups whose properties host 26 American candy stores or souvenir shops along Oxford Street, and said six had since served notice on tenants or brought in different retailers. 

The letter said: “The recent rise of these shops is diminishing the value of our local high streets both financially and reputationally – they risk the recovery of the West End and the value of your property. We are considering all options available to us to ensure that those enabling these businesses to thrive selling unsafe goods and destroying our high streets are persuaded to address this issue in whatever way they can. We cannot leave our businesses, residents and visitors exposed to these sham operations any longer.”

The council urged landlords to consider the West End Pop-up scheme as an alternative to the “homogeny” of short-term leases that are “currently squeezing the value out of the area” and threatened to seek further publicity for those who failed to engage positively with them on the situation. 

The council is owed £9m in unpaid business rates arrears and Trading Standards has seized more than £1m in illegal or unsafe goods from sham operators on the street.

Fair Tax Foundation networks manager Mary Patel said: “Business rate and other tax evasion make it harder for businesses that pay their fair share to compete on a level playing field, and deprives communities of funding for vital public services.

“Westminster City Council should be commended for pioneering the fight against dirty money and for fair tax in their local area. We stand with the council in calling for robust identity verification for anyone registering a UK company, and better resourcing for Companies House.”