Westminster City Council and New West End Company have teamed up to offer small businesses the chance to take over a shop on London’s Oxford Street, rent-free.

Called “Meanwhile On: Oxford Street”, the programme is inviting applications from up-and-coming brands who can bring “something exciting and new” to the world-famous shopping street in terms of products, events, experiences, or concepts.

The programme is aimed at businesses looking to launch their first store or physical space. Selected brands will be given a prime store location for an initial six-month period, with a minimum reduction of business rates of 70%. Stores will either be available for single occupancy or as a themed concept store that can be shared between multiple brands.

Dee Corsi, chief executive of New West End Company, said: “The West End is internationally recognised as one of the world’s most iconic retail and leisure destinations. As a result, it has always been at the forefront for brands looking to engage with consumers in new and innovative ways – businesses that come here, do so to put their best foot forward.

In addition, to help from Westminster City Council, the brands will be offered a package of support spanning store design, mentoring, management and marketing from independent retail consultants, Someday Studios.

Using empty spaces that were previously taken by low-quality occupiers such as American candy stores,  Meanwhile On: Oxford Street is expected to support around 35 brands over the next three years, with the first store opening this autumn.

Cllr Geoff Barraclough, Westmisnter City Council cabinet member for planning and economic development, said: “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.