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Rates regime ‘not helping’ Inverness city centre trade

By Neil MacPhail

A BUSINESS leader has criticised the rates system for making a difficult time even worse for Inverness retailers.

Stewart Nicol, chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce, said that a tough trading environment has not been helped by the business rates imposed.

He was speaking in response to events last week that saw the Debenhams department store chain, a major tenant n Inverness’s Eastgate Centre, go into administration.

“City centre retailers and businesses alike have had to suffer the vagaries of being on the end of a business rates regime which has proven to be inflexible and slow to respond to the ever-changing marketplace in which retail, hospitality and business operates,” he said.

“It is more important than ever that we all work to ensure that Inverness city centre offers visitors and locals alike a dynamic and exciting retail and leisure experience.”

Stewart Nicol
Stewart Nicol

Speaking specifically about the situation Debenhams is now in – in the hands of its lenders who are expected to try to find a buyer for the struggling business as soon as possible – he said: “This is concerning at many levels and particularly so for the employees at the Inverness Debenhams and all of their families.

“Debenhams has been the anchor store in the city’s Eastgate Centre since Phase 2 opened some 16 years ago and has acted as a major attraction for shoppers and retailers alike since then.

“Debenhams’ troubles have been played out for some time now in the media and across the business pages and are undoubtedly due in no small way to our changes in shopping habits. While the management team at Eastgate have done a great job of refreshing

and renewing the retail experience at the heart of the Highland capital’s city centre, the news will be a blow.”

Eastgate Centre manager Jackie Cuddy said that the Inverness store was profitable and there was hope that it would survive any store cuts that are likely to ensue.

Both the store and the shopping centre were remaining positive in that regard, she said.

Debenhams rejected a

£200 million rescue deal proposed by Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley and the company was taken over by its lenders in a pre-pack administration deal allowing shops to continue trading though closures are expected in the longer term.

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