In recent years, a new phenomenon has been sweeping across Europe’s city centres: the rise of import candy stores. These vibrant outlets, filled with American chocolate bars, Japanese cookies, and Indian sweets, are particularly attracting young customers. But what is the buzz around these sweet shops all about, and what’s driving this trend?
Candy stores are taking over Europe’s urban centres
As major department stores and franchise chains, which once dominated city shopping streets, are gradually closing, new and innovative ventures are emerging at every corner. In the face of competition from online retail, brick-and-mortar stores are reinventing themselves with fresh concepts and trends. One trend that has been on the rise for a few years and has established its presence in many European cities is a new form of candy stores.
These confectionery stores, in addition to local sweet brands, mainly offer imported goods from America and Asia. The store’s appearance is paramount, featuring bright colours with lots of orange, purple, red, yellow and neon, striped and zigzag patterns, arrows, and large letters. It seems a bit reminiscent Willy Wonka’s quirky chocolate factory. Interestingly, the buzz around these candy stores originated in England, where there’s a surprisingly high demand for American sweets. Bright signs with titles such as “American Candy Land”, “American Sweet Dreams”, and “Kingdom of Sweets” have been decorating shopping arcades in cities like London, Oxford, and Brighton for years. The candy craze is also blooming in Germany; for example, in Cologne’s “Hohe Straße”, near the cathedral, one can find five import candy stores within a very short distance.
While these stores sell well-known local brands like Haribo or Ferrero, which can also be found in supermarkets, it’s especially the imported brands like Hershey’s or Reese’s that enjoy immense popularity. Additionally, there’s a demand for unique variations of familiar products, such as Japanese Kit-Kat bars flavoured with green tea, banana, or seafood.
Why candy stores are thriving
A key driver behind this trend is the short video platform TikTok. For a successful TikTok video, the aim is to generate attention and interest within a very short time span. The flashy stores and their colourful products are a perfect match for this purpose. Some might argue that people photograph and film more in these stores than they actually buy. Some store owners are fully aware of this and have incorporated selfie spots to capitalize on the free publicity.
The rising interest in these stores may also be linked to the “lipstick effect”, which suggests that consumers, during economically challenging times, are more inclined to treat themselves to smaller luxury items. This might explain why some are willing to spend a premium on imported US chocolates while similar products are available for half the price at the supermarket across the street.
Here in Luxembourg, like everywhere else, the rising trend in candy stores has been palpable. Anyone who strolled through the shopping streets of Ville-Haute in recent years might have noticed the occasional candy store popping up.
“Candy Factory” on Av. De la Porte Neuve, for instance, primarily offers imported confections from the States and Japan. But they provide more than just sweets; you also find savoury snacks like potato chips in a variety of flavours, as well as a range of imported soft drinks. Products associated with pop culture, movies, and TV – like the Harry Potter magic potion sodas or Pokémon cereals – are particularly popular.
The cream of the crop from Luxembourg’s influencer and TikTok scene have, of course, already made their appearances, posing against the vibrant backdrop of the store.
Away from the flashy wallpapers and large brand logos, there’s also a more traditional alternative in the local confectionery world. Located in Centre Brasseur in Luxembourg’s Ville Haute is the quaint store “Lakri-Lux” (formerly “Bärenland”), which has been around for over 15 years. Here, you won’t find imported goods but more traditional treats like fruit gummies, liquorice sticks, and gummy bears. The interior design is understated, and the offerings are less flashy and unique. While it might not be the go-to spot for TikTok and social media content, for true confectionery aficionados, it’s a real haven. Since the products aren’t imported from overseas, it’s also friendlier on the wallet.
In the end, the choice is up to the individual. It’s heartening to see that the buzz around sweets is keeping the city centres vibrant. A sweet treat now and then can certainly do no harm. Sugar can indeed make you happy; you just shouldn’t overdo it!
Picture: Candy Factory