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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Countrywide insider claims up to 250 branches may have closed

Countrywide’s branch closure programme, shrouded in secrecy even to shareholders, may have involved shutting 250 offices according to an insider.

The individual contacted Estate Agent Today with highly specific claims about some individual branches; although the individual did not give their identity or credentials, our investigations suggest his claims are broadly correct. 

Countrywide has been given the opportunity to comment on the specific closures but it has chosen not to, and has instead given a broad statement about the closure programme.

The insider says:

- as many as 250 branches may have been shut;

- these include a number of Barstow Eves branches in north London;

- Taylors and Wilson Peacock in Letchworth;

- Taylors in Biggleswade and Sandy;

- other Countrywide brand offices in St Neots, Stanground near Peterborough, and Kempston near Bedford.

This information has been put to Countrywide, which in response has issued this statement: “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. 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.” 

At the end of July Countrywide’s group managing director, Paul Creffield, shared with Estate Agent Today the company’s philosophy behind the closure programme - but again he declined to give any information on figures. 

Countrywide has told Estate Agent Today that it will not be releasing any figures on the branch closure programme it introduced in the first half of 2019.

He said each branch in Countrywide’s network - some 850 offices at one time - was looked at individually. “Obviously with such a large network there have been some branches which have been barely breaking even, even in a good market. We had to look closely at those” he said.

He continued: “We also looked closely at where there were two competing Countrywide branches on the same High Street. I’m not talking about, say, Hamptons International and Bairstow Eves, because they’re aiming at different markets, but where two offices were directly competing against each other for the same business.”

Creffield said those unnecessary competitions have almost entirely been eliminated and the branches merged.

He suggested there may be “a handful” of branches still to close their doors, but discussions surrounding them were already taking place and any closures in the immediate future would be just “mopping up”.

Creffield concluded that “I can never rule out another closure” but he insisted the current programme had now been concluded.

A trading statement at the end of July said the company had spent £1.3m on redundancy costs during the first six months of the year.

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    '250 branches may have closed'. You'd think someone would have noticed.

  • Andrew Stanton Estate Agency Insights And Strategies

    Well Taylors in Kingston (a few miles from Central Milton Keynes) has closed in the past few months, so that is one less branch, and I have heard 'rumours' that others are about to. My thoughts are that to staunch the losses, closing offices is the only solution, but the cost of redundancies and ongoing leases, usually far outweighs any 'savings' for about 3 years. So, it will still be too little too late if there has been or will be a programme of mass closures. Another worrying thought if indeed hundreds of branches are for the chop, usually this is a precursor for a sale, and maybe that might be the real objective. Make countrywide more appealing as a target for asset striping from interested parties. Time will tell. Countrywide has been sleepwalking into this mess for nearly half a decade so hardly news in some ways.

    A real shame, but every business has its glory days and then the cycle continues downwards, unless top management has strong direction and can deal with the challenges and changes, unfortunately, too many decision makers who are out of touch with what estate agency looks like at grass roots level.

    They would do well to sit in some of their branches for a week and see the reality of doing business in 2019, it is all very different from doing agency in the 1980's.

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