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Countrywide chief executive says: "We're in retailing, the same as Tesco"

Alison Platt, the chief executive of Countrywide, has made clear her belief that the transformation of the agency group to become more retail-focussed is the correct path - and that there are similarities between selling houses and selling groceries.

In an interview with London’s Evening Standard free newspaper, Platt says heer recent eyebrow-raising appointment as a non-executive director of Tesco came as a result of the supermarket giant approaching her. 

But she insists there is a mutually-beneficial overlap with her main role as CEO of Countrywide.


“There’s so much we can learn from how Tesco work, in their branches and in digital, how they’re customer-focused” she says, adding that the position is more interesting because of the challenges being faced by the supermarket.

“If you’re going to do something like this, you don’t want it to be about maintenance management. ... It’s all about having a change agenda and making Tesco the customer’s first choice. Tesco has to change on the outside, and the way it’s seen, and on the inside. And they both have to change at the same time” she insists.

There are similarities with her Countrywide objectives, too, she says: “As well as heeding lessons, Platt hopes to draw on her Countrywide experience to help Tesco. “Our customers don’t look at us and compare us to other estate agents, they compare us to other retailers. We’re in retailing, the same as Tesco.”

Elsewhere in the interview, which touched little on the reorganisation now underway at Countrywide, Platt hinted that she was unhappy at the prospect of Britain leaving the EU because that could lead to seven years of uncertainty as the country found its was - “the property market hates uncertainty and unpredictability” she says.

In addition, she hinted in general terms at her desire for Countrywide to become a general source of property expertise.

“One of the things we’re keen to do is to move away from that short-term transactional view and acknowledge that actually property is going to be something that is going to feature right across your life.

“What we want to become is the organisation that you look at and trust every time, because we bring professional expertise and we couple that with fantastic empathy. The organisation that really pulls that off will set a different standard and will win.”

You can read the full interview here.

  • Sophia Mose

    What I find disappointing when estate agents talk about "customer service" is that they usually don't mean customer service to their own client (principal) - the vendor, whom they have an agreement and agency relationship with. No wonder that the public generally does not hold estate agents in high esteem. By law, estate agents are allowed to represent both parties on opposite sides of the table. We all know that this is not possible in practice however, so why does this absurd situation continue? In practice it means that in a buyer's market vendors are left to their own devices and in a seller's market the buyer is the party without proper representation. In some countries it is standard practice for buyers to hire a buyer's agent and for vendor hire a listing agent. That makes a lot more sense. Why can't the UK and France adopt that system? Does anyone know? Graham, it would be interesting to dig a bit deeper into that. Perhaps buyers would stop being seen as supermarket customers and actually get some solid advice and representation. And vendors would have their own agent who'd advise them and help negotiate the highest price. This false impression that it is possible to represent both parties to a substantial financial transaction can only lead to dissatisfaction. Alison Platt says that there are similarities between selling groceries and selling houses? As a buyer's agent I have to chuckle and say "Thanks Alison, that is helpful and hopefully buyers understand better why they need their own representation." A house is not a bottle of milk, vendors are not distributors of commodities and buyers are not supermarket customers.

  • Terence Dicks

    I may be somewhat old-fashioned, but I act for our vendors, but I do agree with what you say Sophia.

  • Terence Dicks

    I would like to know exactly what experience Alison Platt actually has with Countrywide. I think the coal face is indeed a good idea, but do not believe she could hack it.


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