American Candy Store

American Candy Invasion | The shady sweet shops of London

What's with all these new 'American Candy' shops popping up on Oxford Street? Are they a front for money laundering or just a sugary symptom of our cultural malaise? 

American Candy shops keep popping up on Oxford Street. Are they a fearless front for money laundering or a sugary symptom of a broader cultural malaise? With the council cracking down, we investigate.


Oxford Circus is my personal hell. It gives me The Fear.  

Could it get much worse? Yes, because piling onto the already sensory rollercoaster, we’re now being hit by the nauseating smell of synthetic sweets and vape smoke. 

Dozens of ‘candy shops’ have opened up along Oxford Street, seemingly overnight. ‘Candylicious’, ‘Candy Kingdom’, and other strange technicolour American sweet shops are springing up from the deep. Some blame Chase Manders, CEO of Kingdom of Sweets and owner of at least 16 of these shops up and down the country, for showering high streets with sugar. But there’s only one of his kingdoms on Oxford Street, so I’m not satisfied with lumping failure or success onto just one person. And so I hit the street to chat with other Candy Kings.

American Candy Store

At Worldwide Candy, I’m told, ‘People need the variety’. 

At Candyland I’m promised, ‘Everybody loves sweets’ and that people ‘want something whilst shopping’. 

At American Candy Shop, it’s because their customers just ‘love taking pictures in here’.

But is this all there is to it? Are we just a sugary, fame-craving nation intent on getting an overpriced sugar hit and posting it to social media? Maybe. The NHS claims adults in the UK eat, on average, 700g of sugar per week, a good 450g over the recommended amount. With obesity in children rapidly rising post-pandemic, maybe this is a fact we have to face.

At Candyland I’m promised, ‘Everybody loves sweets’ and that people ‘want something whilst shopping’.

The ‘lipstick effect’ of consumers spending on small indulgences when the economic belt needs to be tightened might lead to overconsumption and untightening of that belt. The American candy sold down the street contains two and a half times the total sugar a child should eat daily in one serving. Yikes. 

American Candy Store

The shops have vast square footage on prime Central London real estate. The thought of the rent alone makes me nauseous as I have a go acting as a commercial renter. I am curious about how much I might have to pay for such premises. I discover they cost between £82.50 to £105 per square foot per month. For a shop space with 2,109 square feet, that’s roughly £17k – £22k per month. Bearing in mind some stores are even bigger, the sales need to be huge to afford rent, despite short-term lets lowering during the past year and gaps left by failed pandemic-hit predecessors.

With a huge clear demand for a sugary fix as told by stats and the shop assistants themselves, combined with prime real estate locations, why is seeing a customer sighting in these shops so incredibly rare? How are they filling the gap? 

American Candy Store

Is there a hero investor swooping in just for the love of candy? I looked to the top of the American Food Shop food chain. I found that Muhammed Thaiseer Moolakkillath was the owner for May 2021 before resigning at the ripe old age of 21. A one-month relationship doesn’t really scream love to me. 

Against the backdrop of Oxford Street being named one of the most dangerous streets in Central London by the Met Police, questions need to be answered. In Operation Jade last year, Police seized 17,500 fake designer goods, unsafe toys and incorrectly labelled nicotine products from souvenir shops and candy shops.

Then, earlier this month, they stepped up their efforts, raiding three stores in one day and taking the amount confiscated, over £500,000. It was not just counterfeit candy seized, but other items, including vapes, shisha, snus tobacco and fake Rolexes.

Concern about these shops is rife online, with countless forums questioning their existence. How are they affording the rent? It’s got to be a front for something, surely…? Any ideas? (Mumsnet). ‘Are they just laundering money?’ (Reddit). The Spectator, Private Eye and TimeOut London are hedging their bets on money laundering and tax evasion. As one mum speculates on Mumsnet about it being a sex trafficking front, another hopefully answers, ‘Maybe just priced-up sweeties’. A girl can dream. 

Regarding footfall and sales, American Candy Shop tells me that ‘the last two years have been really bad, it was best in 2019’. So why are there so many sweet shops and so few customers? Have they not told each other this is outwardly a bad business idea? 

American Candy Store

There’s something about the ‘priced-up sweeties’ themselves that’s suspicious. Yes, it could be the high import tax, as American Candy Shop informs me. But most shops don’t put prices on anything, which, whilst technically a criminal offence, is also a great way of keeping the books clean. In Lollipop World, they don’t have prices because they are ‘rearranging the shelves’, which sure does take a while. After all, a week later, price tags are still yet to be seen.

The owner of American Sweets and Souvenirs also owns the same store in Piccadilly, but when I ask the shop assistants if there are any rivalries or whether they even speak, the answers divide into two: ‘We don’t speak so I don’t know’ and ‘Yes we speak, we get along well’. I have to scarper when one asks me, ‘Why are you asking these questions?’

American Candy Store

Is this the story of a big happy dysfunctional crime family wheeling and dealing in Twizzlers and jelly beans? Or is it one of a sad wave goodbye to the high street?

I can’t prove what is going on without a badge and a swift career change, but I do know how I feel about what I see, and I’m sure thousands of others feel the same way.

Biting into a stale twinkie that cost me the same as a deposit on a one-bed in Hackney, I can’t help but reminisce about the old Oxford Street. Gaggles of teenagers outside Topshop have disappeared to make way for Ikea. My favourite Number 88 bus has slowed, out-paced by flashing rickshaws blaring Shawn Mendes songs to pedestrians who are statistically unlikely to be fans of Mr Mendes’ music. 

And now these shady sweet shops. Here lies the end of an era. Get the 21-gun salute ready and line up for your flatpack furniture, insulin harassment, and sticky-sweet hands, presumably doing things they shouldn’t do behind closed doors.


8 Comments

  • robertnkennedy66 says:

    I too have noticed these shops with some alarm and so too has my ten year old daughter (with a whopping grin) so, is there anything like a formal investigation going on ?

  • john.h.connor11308 says:

    money laundering like slot machine arcades

  • bobhudson.secure says:

    Though I agree with some of your commentary it appears to be a lack of any comfortable evidence for your comments i can only suppose the bulk of it is rubbish.

  • thejobboarder says:

    Noticed this phenomenon about a year ago when cycling up there , walked down Oxford street a couple of months ago , and yeah it really isn’t the best shopping street in Europe anymore, most of it looks dodgy

  • rawlinsonoliver.or1944 says:

    You know, I never really considered why these are there when I visited London before. But honestly now I think there’s definitely some organised crime going on. But why American sweets?? Why not anything else? There surely isn’t that much call for them even in London

  • tallulahquackers8086 says:

    Seriously excellent stores for money laundering. Everything gets recorded as a cash transaction on the books, and the fact sweets last for ever means that little actual ordering and reordering has to take place. If you went for something people actually want, it would make life more difficult.

  • public3035 says:

    American candy provides a good cover story why they’re depositing so many US dollars got through the American occupation of Afghanistan. Don’t American tourists love to buy candy when they’re visiting the UK.

  • r219227611 says:

    Not only Kingdom of sweets but also Pick n Mix London, Pick & Mix sweets, Downspin, Chamberlain, Underweb, Fasttrain, Tracklook, Perfectly Sugar, Drayover, Bluestone, BDH, Smarter Horizons, Sunlight Management, Vanilla commerce, Overhirst, Fordgreen, Crossfray, Inglelake, Croftlake, Crossford, Crosshil, Drayhill, Sweet Suprise Management, Manders Leisure. All peddling sugar.

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