Countrywide says the roll out of its online sales and lettings service is on schedule to reach 50 per cent of branches by July 31 - that’s Monday of next week.
It is only 14 months since Countrywide revealed that it would be piloting an online option for vendors in three brands - Spencers in the Leicestershire and Rutland area, Austin & Wyatt in Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire, and Frank Innes across the East Midlands are the chosen brands.
Now - despite a raft of at least 59 office closures and some branch mergers across a range of brands - half of the Countrywide network of offices will offer the service.
In an announcement to shareholders, Countrywide says: “This offer gives our customers the choice to transact digitally and at a fixed cost but with the assurance that they are able to upgrade to the full service proposition in branch without losing the money they have already paid” says a statement from the company to shareholders.”
The firm is defiant against critics of the initiative, saying: “We have increased traffic to our estate agency websites, have been invited to carry out more market appraisals and have won more instructions. We have held or gained market share in the areas that have the new offering, and also learned that, even where our digital proposition is available, over 95 per cent of customers still choose to take advantage of the services we offer in branch.”
It says this is evidence confirming what the company expected when it launched the online option over a year ago - “that a combination of digital capability and local market expertise is what customers really want.”
Meanwhile Countrywide’s share price plummeted still further yesterday, down over 10 per cent at one point in response to the worse-than-expected figures reported to the City covering the first half of 2017.
The group’s operating profit of £28.3m in the first half of last year dropped to £6.5m, revenues were down from £370.3m to £333m and sales transactions fell from 33,940 to 27,100.
The overall market for housing transactions was down seven per cent in the first six months of this year compared with 2016 but within that Countrywide’s share dropped again from 5.1 per cent a year ago to 4.9 per cent in H1 2017.