London’s Westminster Council is able to crush some sweet. After years of working behind the scenes, the council in June went public with its probe into sweet and memento outlets blighting Oxford Street, or in advertising and marketing slang “the nation’s high street”.
In the previous couple of years round thirty such shops have sprung up like popping sweet on one among Europe’s busiest procuring streets, with many landlords and their brokers blaming excessive enterprise charges for his or her emergence. Many of those shops are beneath investigation for not paying property taxes and the Council’s chief, Adam Hug, says its buying and selling requirements officers in June alone seized round £100,000 of counterfeit or unlawful items from unspecified “American Candy Shops on Oxford Street”, together with 2,246 Willy Wonka bars.
Dotted in amongst dozens of allegedly tax delinquent companies, one operator needs to be seen as a severe participant: Kingdom of Sweets.
Company lore has it that founder Chase Manders grew the corporate from a Pick n’ Mix retailer at a procuring centre to opening shops at core places in Oxford Street as “one of the largest UK confectionery retailers”.
After information of the probes broke, a consultant for the enterprise buying and selling beneath the Kingdom of Sweets model was fast to place out a press release, and in a “note to editors” threatened authorized motion towards anybody suggesting it was being probed over enterprise charges or tax scams:
We are a decent enterprise paying all related taxes and enterprise charges. The problem of rival shops opening after which closing with out paying enterprise charges has had a detrimental impression on our buying and selling in an especially tough setting.
As a accountable enterprise we help plans to clamp down on this apply and can proceed working with Westminster Council.
Not fairly, says Westminster Council, which gave the next assertion to Alphaville:
Our information present Kingdom of Sweets will not be updated with enterprise charges. Very substantial arrears stay for which now we have repeatedly demanded fee.
Claims that particular person restricted firms buying and selling as ‘Kingdom of Sweets’ have paid tens of millions in enterprise charges to the City Council are unfaithful. The actuality is the Council is owed important quantities in unpaid enterprise charges by firms buying and selling as ‘Kingdom of Sweets’.
To be clear, there is no such thing as a suggestion that Kingdom of Sweets has ever bought unsafe or counterfeit items. However, a fast dig down into the accounts raises severe questions whether or not all is nicely in sweet land.
In the previous decade Manders has been a director or shareholder of greater than 40 firms. At least a 3rd of them have fended off obligatory strike-offs by the corporate registry. Manders arrange an organization known as Kingdom of Sweets Limited in 2011, which dissolved 5 years later with out submitting accounts. It was changed with one other firm with the identical title in 2017, although to this point it has solely filed dormant accounts — which means the corporate claims to haven’t traded.
Several others have gone bancrupt. In 2013 Manders purchased one among them out of insolvency by way of a brand new firm, which additionally liquidated the next yr, owing Thurrock and South Gloucestershire £49,853 and £70,844 in enterprise charges respectively.
At the time, its liquidator investigated if claims may very well be introduced for breach of fiduciary duties, however concluded that it might “not be cost effective to instigate proceedings”. A consultant for the Kingdom of Sweets model didn’t present any on-the-record remark.
It’s not the primary time the Kingdom of Sweets enterprise and Westminster Council have locked horns.
In 2019 and 2020, Westminster Council requested the courts to place two firms related to Kingdom of Sweets into liquidation — Oldgreen Limited and Croftray Limited.
Oldgreen, as of the most recent administrator’s report from November final yr, owed almost £1.5mn in enterprise charges.
Administrator BDO’s newest report into Croftray, in the meantime, says that round £1.1mn in funds have been made out of its checking account after the winding up order. As of May this yr, BDO have been nonetheless attempting to determine who bought £450,000 of these funds. A consultant for the Kingdom of Sweets model didn’t present any on-the-record remark.
Manders’ firms have steadily shortened and prolonged accounting dates, which to company investigators is usually a pink flag. Year-end dates have included February 29 and December 30, which could finest be described as unconventional.
Sweet Surprise Management Limited, which rents premises on Oxford Street, picked the December 30 finish date simply ten months after altering its accounting date from 31 March to 31 December. It hasn’t filed accounts since then, they usually’re now almost eight months overdue.
Kingdom of Sweets had no on-the-record touch upon why two of its associated firms made sizeable advances to Manders. At the tip of 2020, Drayhill, as an example, owed collectors almost half one million kilos, however it had additionally given Manders greater than £190,000 in advances.
Since the tip of June Westminster Council petitioned the court docket to wind up two extra Kingdom of Sweets associated firms, together with Sweet Surprise Management. A spokesman for Kingdom of Sweets says the enterprise has put steps into place to pay excellent enterprise charges.
Looks like Westminster is coping with some onerous sweet.
How Oxford Street was overrun by candy outlets — FT