Franchise network Hunters has recorded strong figures for the first half of 2020 but a trading statement reveals the measures it had to take to weather the Coronavirus storm.
Having seen sales plummet 93 per cent in April 2020 against April 2019 - as a result of the market closure during lockdown - the firm’s directors and senior managers took temporary salary reductions of 20 to 50 per cent and cancelled the 2019 final dividend to shareholders.
They also secured “access to various government schemes” without specifying how much, and undertook both redundancies and restructuring.
“This rightsizing included franchising two of the group owned branches, a strategy we adopted last year and are looking to progress further” explains Hunters chairman Kevin Hollinrake in the trading statement.
As a result the Hunters Group improved EBITDA in the first half year by 30 per cent to £1.44m despite turnover reducing around a fifth to £5.4m.
“Sales took the brunt of the impact of the nationally mandated lockdown period, rebalancing our business for this half year to June at 58 per cent/42 per cent Sales/Lettings” explains Hollinrake, who says the first half of 2019 - by contrast - saw a 64/36 per cent split.
Since reopening, the income pipeline across the network stands at £16.6m - an increase of 43 per cent.
Hollinrake, who is also a Conservative MP, says technology has also been key to the agency’s success.
“Our swiftly adopted technology strategy meant branches could remain open to customers [during lockdown], even if remotely. We supplemented this with in-house support webinars named ‘Audience With..’. This facilitated internal communication; information sharing and best practice training” he says.
“Engagement has been tremendously positive. We have run 60 webinar sessions this year engaging with 4,715 registrants from our partner network and these will continue. Customers have also engaged online - to the end of June engaged users were up 25 per cent compared to the previous six months and the average online duration was up 17 per cent against the same period last year. Social Media engagement has generated an increase of 53 per cent reaching 8.9m consumers.”
He continues: “Our belief is that Covid-19 has accelerated the rate of technological usage by three to five years. Our approach to offer an enhanced customer experience whilst reducing labour costs and freeing up staff time to drive more revenue will be, we believe, key areas for the future.”