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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Countrywide branch closures and staff redeployment underway

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.

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    In my area they have already closed three branches, Stratton Creber in Camborne and Mawnan Smith, Miller in Penryn and I am told a branch in Liskeard and Penzance may also be on the hit list. Sympathy for the staff who have been let down by the SLT.

  • Paul Barrett

    There will be many more EA/LA closing as S24 continues its destruction of formerly profitable businesses.
    UC awaits many of those made redundant!!
    Poor sods!

  • Andrew Stanton Estate Agency Insights And Strategies

    A swathe of closures imminent, what a sad thing to see, five years ago this company was awash with money and the top management team squandered the opportunity. I really feel for those about to lose their positions, good luck, and maybe now is the time to go it alone, as agency really is a profession where you get out what you put in. With Proptech, less of a need for a high street office, starting up has never been so cheap, so maybe a silver lining here for some. Countrywide's decline is a symptom of the changes to all industries, crazy moves like making 150 IT staff redundant to cut costs? rather showed the company was out of touch with the needs of any modern company. On the positive it will embolden other companies to offload non profit making offices. Maybe they might sell some offices off, rather than closing them - opportunities here to generate income - Hamptons? Thoughts.

  • Paul Barrett

    If Countrywide cannot make a go of these offices one presumes it matters not who is running them the business isn't there.
    I wouldn't imagine these closing offices were incompetent.
    Surely just a case of prevailing market conditions rendering the offices unprofitable or rather not profitable enough.
    Seems a shame that the presumably well trained staff are to have their jobs made redundant due to market conditions and not any fault of theirs.
    Could these trained staff members be redeployed within the Corporate Countrywide entity!?
    It makes sense to hang onto experienced staff.
    But I do believe as things progress many LA and EA will find themselves distinctly unclothed when the tide goes out.
    What's the standard phrase commonly used when a major industry has to undergo massive rationalisation?
    This process is not unique to the EA/LA sector.
    Other industries are going through the same downsizing process.
    Supermarkets being the classic example.
    So I don't believe these Countrywide offices are closing through lack of competence.
    It is just the market isn't there to support these offices.
    There are simply too many EA/LA chasing too little business which is only going to get worse.
    Surely closing and opening offices is just the natural cycle of things as the market goes up and down!?
    Not nice of course when you are caught personally in the down bit!
    But ebb and flow is just capitalism working.
    I'm sure these Countrywide Staff members will be able to use their skills in other areas or probably with other EA/LA.
    One wishes them well




  • Andrew Stanton Estate Agency Insights And Strategies

    Paul, I totally agree that business or how business is done is changing, not just in the property sector, but the point is that CW had a mountain of cash and so were 5 years ago ahead of the game and they fumbled the ball. They did not future proof, they walked like zombies into the future, for sure Alison Platt did not help, but maybe they should have asked then listened to the front line team in the branches and adapted to the new 'needs' of vendors and buyers, landlords and tenants, all the raw data is and was there, instead middle aged men and one woman made decisions from a huge ivory tower a million miles away from the changed reality at the sharp end of the business.

    Being a middle aged man myself - you realise - you can either do things the same way you did in 1985, for the next 45 years - the Countrywide model, or observe, absorb and adapt as the climate changes and be king of the jungle, or at least be nearer the top of the food chain. Capitalism is very fickle as you say Paul, but it also has many rewards for those who seize the opportunities.

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