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Obituary: menswear veteran Barry Austen

One of the founding members of the Independent Menswear Company (IMC), and former president of the Menswear Association of Britain (MAB), Barry Austen, has died.

The menswear veteran started his career as a sales representative for S. Schneider & Sons, makers of the label Guards, which was based in London.

In 1960 Austen bought a shop trading as Reeds of Bulwell, a suburb of Nottingham, which he renamed Barry Austen. The shop traded successfully and was followed by a number of others in Ashfield, Arnold and Hucknall.

Austen then opened a concession in the Pearsons department store in central Nottingham in 1984 and in 1985 he bought a shop in Market Street, central Nottingham, that previously traded as Barnets. He then bought two more shops in Beeston and in central Nottingham.

Austen was actively involved in the trade associations and was one of five independents that founded the IMC Group, formerly ABC Buying Group, in 1981.

He was president of MAB in 1986.

Robert Smart, owner of Robert Smart menswear in York said Austen was a “hero” of his. “He was the backbone of the [IMC] buying group, committing his time and money into cloth purchase and CMT trousers from Portugal, all this for the benefit of the membership.

“He was hale and hearty with a real presence, a keen retail mind and an exceptional eye for detail. He was not afraid to put his head on the block and if he didn’t rate somebody he was never shy in expressing his feelings with some choice words. So sorry you are no longer with us Barry, you will missed, but never forgotten.”

David Coe, owner of Coe’s department store group said of Austen: “Always full of life and a good businessman, he and others started the ABC Buying Group. They combined their buying power to purchase more effectively with slightly different products. Barry, a real menswear character and gentleman.”

Austen is survived by four children and 11 grandchildren.

The funeral will be held at Southwell Minster at 2:30pm on 14 June. The family requests no flowers and ask that any donations go to the RNLI.

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