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Countrywide: Platt's revolution goes on despite latest share price slump

Countrywide chief executive Alison Platt has told Estate Agent Today the transformation she wishes to see within the group may take years to complete, rather than months.

As a starting point, her target is to roughly halve the group’s current 80 or so brands by 2020, with those that remain being stronger and better than now.

Platt says this process does not impact only the well known High Street estate agency brands - some of which have already merged, with only 10 Countrywide brands now operating in London - but also involves the group’s firms in mortgage and other sectors.

In her firm’s third quarter trading report yesterday Platt referred in brief and general terms to “fewer, better brands and branches.” 

Now in an interview with EAT - on the day that the firm’s share price plummetted about 12 per cent to close at 169.5 - she confirms that more agency branches and other offices would close in future, following the shutting of approaching 60 branches over the summer. 

However, Platt would not be drawn on numbers or deadlines for the brand changes and office closures, and suggested the process would take years rather than months before her vision for the group was complete.

“We’re in a multi-channel environment, there isn’t a ‘one-off and done‘ process for brands or branches or anything else. This may take several years” she says. 

Some of the timing will depend on the progress of the hybrid model for vendors, which she describes as a “major success.” 

Her proposed roll out of this model - which allows sellers to use an online-only option and then ‘step up’ to full-service traditional agency supprt if they wish - is on target to reach 25 per cent of the Countrywide agency network.

Platt is particularly pleased at the income from the hybrid model so far because it has generated more business than expected in the form of four per cent more leads, 15 per cent more instructions, and eight per cent of registered buyers. Even so, it still generates only three to four per cent of all instructions for the group.

On staffing, Platt says there will “inevitably be an ebb and flow” in any large organisation that undergoes change.

Rumours continue to circulate within the industry of a number of managers within Countrywide - some appointed to their posts as recently as October 2015 - who may have left the organisation in recent days, but Platt refused to be drawn on detailed staffing matters and told EAT she found it “disappointing” that the subject was under discussion.  

Platt summarised yesterday’s trading statement as indicating a “very solid performance” in a market made challenging by Brexit uncertainty and, in London and at the top end particularly, the long-lasting effects of the December 2014 stamp duty reforms.

“The numbers tell the story of a two-speed market” of London versus the rest of the country. 

In summary, yesterday’s statement warned of a slump in sales transactions this year likely to last throughout 2017, while showing a significant improvement in the number of rental properties under the group’s management and in its remortgaging business.

  • Andrew Ireland

    Ah Alison must have read my rather patronising advice of yesterday on this slot and taken immediate overnight action. However as my old boss George Pope used to say 'you cant run with the fox and hunt with the hounds'. In business there is nothing worse than brand confusion. Still if retail banks can transition then why can't Country wide? Go for it Alison time is of the essence, get the knife out now. Identify your flagships, big them up, shut the hangers on and don't apologise, its business.

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    so does this mean more office closures or re branding half of brands as stated to being countrywide estate agents instead of say mann, or austin wyatt etc etc

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    If the position is that actually only sixty have closed, a recount is required. It certainly seems that things are being done rather 'on the hoof'. It is a long time since such 'knee jerk' reaction has been apparent. Two restructures in as many years and culling of senior managers (when they have the courage to come clean about it), hot on the heels of those that have jumped already. Fewer people of any experience or ability for that matter, in positions to make any difference to the way the organisation does its business at branch level, and propaganda that would make a banana republic tin pot dictator blush. Over 10,000 employees and their livelihoods being put at risk by what will turn out to be a misguided, ilconceived and executed pursuit of an illusion of someone with what appears to be wholly irrelevant experience. It is, as has beeen said before, The Emporers New Clothes. Don't they look a picture!

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