One of the country’s major regional agencies has unveiled a ‘super hub’ structure which began life as a lockdown measure but has now been made permanent.
Farrell Heyworth, which covers much of the north west of England, had 18 branches pre-lockdown and has now turned its operation into an innovative seven-hub model.
The exercise has been completed with the assistance of Bob Scarff, the former Managing Director of Countrywide Estate Agents and Financial Services.
“At the time of the lockdown moving to a smaller number of hub operations seemed sensible given the precautions necessary. We anticipated doing it for some time and then returning to the branch structure” Estate Agent Today has been told by Jeremy Collins, a director of the company.
In the spring “a small number” of staff went through a redundancy consultation process, complemented by some retirements, but today’s announcement of the hub structure sees no additional job losses.
“Exactly the same staff as we had until now will be operating exactly the same services from the seven hubs, covering exactly the same area” explains Collins.
“This has turned out to be a significantly better model from a business point of view” he adds.
About 80 per cent of the existing staff are already working in the hubs and 20 per cent from home; that 20 per cent will be returning to the hubs shortly.
A statement to EAT by the company says: “Following a successful trial post lock down and as consumer demand changes, Farrell Heyworth are innovating to provide our customers with the very best experience.
“We are merging our smaller branches into seven super hubs to continue to provide our successful service in all eighteen of our current branch areas, dealing with clients lettings, sales, mortgages and auction needs.
“Some of the most dedicated and experienced property professionals in the North West are spearheading our seven hub branches. All the teams are now looking forward to this exciting next chapter in Farrell Heyworth's illustrious 30 year history with the opening of new hub branches planned to expand the geographical footprint in the near future and the soon-to-be-announced acquisition plan for lettings businesses.”
A growing number of agencies - before the Coronavirus and since - have abandoned traditional small-scale branch models and adopted hub structures. Most but not all of these have been in larger cities.
Farrell Heyworth says it’s been monitoring these, including the recent move by the Midlands regional chain Andrew Grant, which last year closed some branches in favour of hubs.
Jeremy Collins says Farrell Heyworth is not currently considering basing any of its agents in remote locations outside of hubs, but he believes his company’s new structure is one which could be taken up by other agencies and modified to include remote working.
Meanwhile he says his firm is keen to discuss possible acquisitions of other agencies’ lettings operations as part of an expansion programme.