Countrywide says it is constantly keeping its current branch structure under review, saying any responsible agency would have to consider the merits of each office in “the continuing challenging market.”
In an interview with Estate Agent Today, Paul Creffield - group managing director of Countrywide - says last week’s surprise announcement of the sale of the company’s Lambert Smith Hampton commercial arm was not the start of a sell-off of other divisions.
And he confirmed that the residential branch closure programme, undertaken over the past 18 months and culminating with an unspecified number of offices being shut, was now complete.
However, he said: “It would be wrong not to keep individual branches under review. That might mean closures or it might mean openings. Demographics change and there’s the continuing challenging market we’re facing.”
Creffield insists that the sale of Lambert Smith Hampton is a one-off. “It had its own human resources department, its own IT people and its own finance staff. It was a separate unit to the rest of Countrywide” he said, after revealing that there had been a full market exercise to buy the commercial arm as far back as 2016, but on that occasion without finding a buyer.
When asked by EAT whether this sell-off would lead to the disposal of other supposedly non-core Countrywide activities - like mortgages, other financial services, surveys and the like - Creffield insisted ‘No’.
“The other departments in Countrywide are all integrated into the branch network and the residential activities. Everything that remains is core. There are definitely no plans for any further sales” he stated.
In addition to the sale, Countrywide has also revealed that it’s extended its existing loan facility.
Details remain commercially-confidential but Countrywide says: “The new facility provides the group with the financial flexibility to execute the turnaround plan while operating in what continues to be a challenging and uncertain market environment.”
Creffield says that there has been “good progress” on the company’s two-year-old Back To Basics programme, instituted after Alison Platt departed as chief executive, and with the aim of focusing resources back on a branch network for sales and lettings.
“We’ll end the year precisely as we expected, so we’re pleased with progress” insists Creffield. In its most recent trading statement, back in July, Countrywide claimed its register and pipeline of agreed sales was healthy with market share building; it insists Countrywide retained “our market-leading position across both sales and lettings.”