Estate Agent Today understands that Countrywide has started a programme involving branch closures and redeployment of staff.
Unlike other branch closure programmes by LSL Property Services and Foxtons, Countrywide is keeping tight-lipped and is not revealing numbers of offices or staff involved.
However, it is known that at least one branch in Essex is closing - at Frinton on Sea - while staff at Maldon, Wickford and five other locations close by are reported to be receiving offers of redundancy packages; in at least some cases, Countrywide is seeking to redeploy staff.
This move is despite Peter Long, Countrywide’s executive chairman, saying as recently as March this year that no decisions had been made regarding ‘branch footprint’.
Two months ago, Long told Estate Agent Today that he had seen the actions of LSL, Foxtons and others in terms of cutting branch networks but insisted at the time: “Of course we’re looking at estates but we’re not going to be thrown off course.”
“The Back To Basics recovery programme is three years or so and we’re only one year through that.”
Countrywide is now not revealing whether the closure and redeployments in the Essex area are a one-off or part of a wider programme.
A spokeswoman for the company told EAT yesterday evening: “Our brands, branch network and the colleagues who work within them remain at the heart of our customer offering. As a responsible business we must constantly assess our branch footprint, the customers they serve and their profitability.”
She continued: “Based on that insight, there will be times when we make the difficult decision to close a branch and wherever possible, will seek to redeploy the teams.”
Countrywide has in recent weeks suffered further setbacks to its Back To Basics initiative, which was introduced in early 2018 to put more emphasis on branches.
In March the company issued a profits warning, saying that Brexit and the difficult housing market in London and the South of England would affect its profitability in the first half of 2019 by as much as £5 million.
Countrywide’s share price has for some weeks been hovering around 6p, about 94% down in the past 12 months.