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Rent-free stores on offer on Oxford Street – BBC News

Image caption,

The plans aim to help entice visitors back following the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis

Small businesses are being offered rent-free shops on Oxford Street as part of plans to boost the area and prevent more candy shops from opening.

The £10m scheme is also offering a 70% reduction in business rates, a fit-out of stores, as well as marketing and business support.

Called Meanwhile On: Oxford Street, it is being run by Westminster Council and the New West End Company.

The stores will be ones previously occupied by the American candy stores.

The council has been trying to rid the street of them, claiming they are a “threat to the status” of Oxford Street.

It is investigating many, in conjunction with Trading Standards, amid allegations that some companies have evaded business rates to the amount of £8m.

The scheme is expected to support about 35 brands over three years, with the first opening in the autumn. Each brand will initially be offered support for six months.

Applications are welcomed from “innovative, cutting-edge and up-and-coming brands who will offer something exciting and new” to the famous street.

Stores can be used for single occupancy or as a themed-concept store shared between multiple brands.

‘Low quality occupiers’

Geoff Barraclough, cabinet member for planning and economic development, said the plan would “help future-proof the nation’s high street by offering innovative local businesses as alternatives to low quality occupiers and candy stores”.

“The good news is that the number of candy stores is falling and represents just 1% of all trading floor space and one of the biggest candy stores on the street is about to become HMV, an iconic retailer which is set to return to the street later this year.”

He added: “The West End has recovered quickly from the pandemic but there are still too many vacant units and poor-quality occupants.

“That’s why we’ve set up Meanwhile On: Oxford Street to help fill the gaps with upcoming brands showcasing their innovative new ideas.”

Image source, Oxford Street Programme

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The scheme is part of a project to rejuvenate the area

Meanwhile On: Oxford Street builds on a pilot scheme that saw Kitty McEntee, founder of Lab Tonica, having a short-term pop up by the council on Regent Street in 2021. Lab Tonica now has a permanent concession in Selfridges.

“As a new start up, this was an incredible experience and helped to fast-track the launch of my brand, providing a multitude of marketing and collaboration opportunities, and delivering much-needed revenue for an independent start-up,” she said.

“The initiative breathed new life into the post-Covid high street and I’m proud to have been a part of it.”

The scheme forms part of the council’s wider plans to boost the area.

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