Entrepreneur Austen Pickles is taking advantage of rock bottom commercial property prices to expand his Bradford-based tailoring business by setting up ‘pop up’ shops in key town centres,

The boss of bespoke tailoring firm Norton & Townsend is pioneering the retail model after securing a three-month lease in the centre of Birmingham for just £1.

Mr Pickles, Norton & Townsend chief executive, said low rents enabled small independent businesses to get a foothold in the High Street. The post-recession slump in rents had paved the way for businesses like his to flourish.

He believes short-term lets of cheap empty shop units to different retailers could become a trend, changing the face of UK high streets and encouraging more independent traders.

He said: “Five years ago the High Street was full of the same faces. But now, with the return of the independents, customers will have so much choice. It may change every three or six months but that’s part of the fun.”

He is looking at more than a dozen sites across the country where he can establish temporary Norton & Taylor operations for £1 to spread the Saltaire-based firm’s name.

Mr Pickles said: “We are travelling tailors in that we will go to wherever the customer is, whether that’s in the workplace or at home. However, the malaise in the High Street opens up a whole new dimension enabling us to raise the profile of our brand and giving us the opportunity to appeal to a hugely diverse demographic.

“We’ve only been open a matter of weeks and already we have been bowled over by the level of support we have received.”

Norton & Townsend, founded in 1992, has showrooms in Salts Mill and at London’s Spitalfields. The new store in Birmingham’s Great Western Arcade could be followed by openings in Manchester, Newcastle, Plymouth, Cardiff and other cities.

Mr Pickles said: “We’re delighted to be in a beautifully historic part of Birmingham and indebted to the landlord for giving us an opportunity to see whether this is viable in the long-term. But whether we have a store or not, Norton & Townsend will be in Birmingham for good, offering impeccable clothes and an unbeatable service to all our customers.”

  • Read the full story in Tuesday's T&A