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Closure of DIY and building materials store in Inverness ‘a sign’ of struggling construction sector

By Philip Murray

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The former Wickes store, which is now sitting empty.
The former Wickes store, which is now sitting empty.

The loss of a major DIY and building materials retailer in Inverness is a sign that the housebuilding and construction industry are still struggling, a leading Highland economist believes.

Tony Mackay was speaking after Wickes closed the doors on its large base in the Longman area of the city.

News that the company’s outlet was at risk of closure first emerged back in March, when ‘for rent’ signs appeared on the building.

It subsequently emerged that the retailer’s lease on the building was coming to an end - sparking uncertainty over whether it might renew its lease, relocate elsewhere in the city, or vacate the Highland capital entirely.

READ MORE: Building materials supplier in Inverness potentially set to close

At the time a Wickes spokesperson said the company was supporting staff through “a difficult time”.

However, the firm’s Inverness outlet has now shuttered completely - with all Wickes signage removed and the entrance cordoned off by fencing. Wickes’ website also shows no Inverness outlets on its map of active UK locations.

Wickes was approached for comment but did not respond.

Meanwhile, Mr Mackay believes the closure of Wickes and other outlets in the Longman in recent months - such as Pagazzi Lighting and the American Golf showroom - is not a sign of any underlying issues concerning the financial viability of the Longman area,

But he did add that the loss of the likes of Wickes was a sign that some sectors of the economy were still struggling to fully recover from the aftermath of the Covid pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.

He said: “I don’t think there is a specific issue with the Longman so these closures are probably just a coincidence. The Longman is a good location for both business customers and workers.”

Pagazzi Lighting closed its doors earlier this year.
Pagazzi Lighting closed its doors earlier this year.

“However, the Scottish and UK economies continue to struggle, so it is not surprising that there have been recent closures such as Wickes and Pagazzi Lighting.

“Annual economic growth has only recovered to about +2 per cent a year and consumer spending is still below what it was about five years ago before the Covid pandemics.”

He continued: “The tourism industry seems to have recovered well, as exemplified by the recent investments in hotels, restaurants and pubs in the Inverness area, but other industries such as housebuilding and construction are still struggling. The Wickes closure is an example of that.”

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