TWO shop owners are planning some bespoke tailoring to their business to avoid rate increases.

Ju Ju in Gloucester Road, Brighton, was the first shop to feature in the Mary Queen Of Shops TV series, where guru Mary Portas gave advice to struggling businesses.

But now after more than 20 years of trading, owners Tim Price and his partner Soly Daneshmand are planning drastic action in the face of controversial business rate reforms.

They say they will have to split the clothes shop into two to stay afloat when steep rate rises are brought in from April.

Ms Daneshmand, 50, said: “We’re basically trying to get round the system the only desperate way we know how.

“We’re not trying to fall foul of the law. This is the only way we can save our business.”

Business rate relief of up to 100 per cent is available to those whose properties have a rateable value of up to £12,000.

As a corner unit, Ju Ju’s rateable value is considered greater than stores of comparable size with a smaller shopfront.

In the last valuation, based on 2008 rent levels, the store was given a rateable value of £19,750.

But in the recent revaluation, this was increased to £24,750 and the couple will have to pay annual business rates of 48 per cent of this amount starting on April 1.

Ms Daneshmand said: “They say they’re helping small business but just because we’re a corner unit we fall outside the calculation and that’s totally and utterly unfair.”

The couple have already challenged the valuation.

Now they are preparing to split the shop, which has two doors, into two businesses.

They believe having two smaller stores will mean both qualify for full rate relief, with rateable values below £12,000.

Ms Daneshmand said: “Our point is we’re desperately trying to stay afloat.

“I love what I do with a passion but if the only way we can get a fair look-in is to split the shop up, so be it. I’ll keep Ju Ju and the men’s side will be Brassic.”

The new brand will stand for “Business Rates Avoidance Shop Split, Cruelly Inflicted”.

Mr Price, 56, said it was possible the store would take less money this year than when they opened in 1994 as it faces increasing pressure from online retailers.

He said: “What we’re being forced to do is put a wall down the middle of the shop. We’re even going to have to split utility bills between the shops but I’m prepared to do that if we don’t have the rates to find.”

He said he was “all for” paying business rates but it was unfair to have to find such a large sum for his business while similar traders in nearby Sydney Street received 100 per cent rate relief.