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why papering over the cracks won't help, Country Wide PLC

Countrywide PLC  currently the largest UK estate-agency chain [ made up of 50 branded high st estate agents] has bought three more high street independent estate agents, including two larger chains in Liverpool, and John Francis based South Wales and Swansea.

Great ? you might say a company expanding business , but what happens when that business model just does not work any more in today's changing property industry. Using spin by inferring that acquisition will maintain employment using an unsustainable / workable business model is rather, fool hardy.

I am anti estate agent , far from it , if you look at purplebricks [PB] online business model, its expanding and employing more  people each week , AND it's future is looking rosy. PB has a sustainable employment approach to a real estate industry, that is changing for the better and for the good of the consumer , a win win in both fields.The number of high street estate agents, is also ,on the decline. [ official gov data collated over 15 years]  

Add to this the growing number of start-up on-line estate agencies, employing more people , with ex high street estate agent personnel, who have already made the transition [or have joined these start ups].

Country Wide PLC CEO Alison Platt , has never been an estate agent. She has never listed or sold a property,coming from and transport background , leaving school to join British Airways and then joining their trainee management scheme , later going on to work in insurance at Bupa.

So? , have these business acquisitions been made to keep the city and share holders happy ? , the wind seems to be blowing in the opposite direction.

At a time when, businesses are looking to become more efficient and trimming their fat. It makes no business sense, to have physical office presence on the the street .Data from the BFP shows rent is the one of the biggest outlays, for independent retailer outlets ,on the high street

.Block Buster Video Woolworth s and even Virgin Mega stores well known British high street brands that have disappeared at the wrath of buyer behaviour ,those products are now easily sold and bought online via ebay amazon and a whole myriad online shopping outlets.

the times they are a changing

In a presentation to investors earlier this month Platt [see below] stated that re-branding was “not about changing names” which she described as “a very expensive waste of time.”

Alison Platt CEO Countrywide PLC introduction to Capital Markets Day HD 

Countrywide CEO Alison Platt Building our Future our growth strategy Capital Markets Day HD

Instead, she said any re branding would be based on “great brands” that exist in some localities and how much the group could “expand their proposition.” This would involve some “tidying up” of brands as well she said, without detailing what that might mean in practice.

However, she insisted that Countrywide would always remain what she called “a house of brands” and said she could not envisage a time when there would be “one or even single digit brand numbers across this group.”

But went on to say that London was the market with “the biggest opportunity for smarter alignment of brands with customer segments.

Russell Quirk CEO on line estate agent eMoov has stated " Even consolidating from 50 brands to 10 would be too many to promote and sustain in a space that is ever shifting online. I wonder how many consumers have heard of Countrywide and know that they are the largest UK estate agency player? Not many I suspect. Interestingly, as the largest, the group have just a 6% market share in the UK and this perhaps makes Countrywide vulnerable against single brand, consumer focussed players. Wasn't 'retail' surpassed by eCommerce a while back?

The whole transaction chain, from buying selling and letting is being transformed by technology , to save us the consumer money and time.Veyo Hoowla SearchFlow who are helping speed up conveyancing process. now the fourth largest estateagent in the UK backed by, city ace fund manager Paul Woodford, which will have its initial public offering before the end of the year, valued at £250m ,a sum not to be baulked at, many "new estate agents" have adopted the the online business model which allows the seller or potential client like you or me to pay a fixed fee rather that a commission on the sale or let of a home.

Purplebricks is not the only new " BIG" entrant to the market. Sir Charles Dunstone, the co-founder of Carphone Warehouse, has invested in HouseSimple, while the easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, has 
launched a site called easyProperty.Crowd funding is a good thermometer to gauge public opinion, on how the industry is changing and "what the consumer really wants and NOT what the high street estate agent industry wants or thinks the public want needs " emoov recently raising over £2.5m from public crowd funded site crowd cube. Influential Business, savy venture capitalists like episode1 and a former bbc dragons den entrepreneur, have invested in business , which also reinforces the momentous support from the business industry.

Celebrities within the sporting field such as homecloud ,have also joined the ever growing trend , my point they all cant be wrong,in sensing consumer sentiment , buyer behaviour has "definitely changed".

Country wide keeps talking of its long term plan, again this business model "IS NOW" technology driven fast dynamic , where time waits, for no one, in a ruthless way

The fact that country wide is made up of traditional high street agents , will take time for the management and money . During this critical juncture , on-line estate agents have already expanded nationally . Most recently upestates.who expanded in the midlands and the recent team up of with property detective . Their is also long nationally established online agent and

Platt has also stated that leading property portals like zoopla rightmove give them the best exposure to their brand, being one of their largest clients, so it confusing for the board state they will evaluate its stock holding Zoopla property group ?. [CW PLC own shares in both portals]

I'm all for women at the top in succeeding,in an all male dominated tech sphere. You only have to look at the founder Sarah Beenay of Tepilo on-line estate agents, Rebecca Peach, the CEO and founder of iamtheagent U.K online real estate agent and Dame Stella Rimington of [Trulia CEO Petet flint also a founding member of] who went on to transform the holiday / travel high street agent business, into what it is today,..though they both started from on-line not the high-street.

It has taken the CW PLC CEO over 14 months in the role, to make this acquisition, which is still high street based, it's a ball and chain unfortunately , needing to rid the high street model in order to survive ; let alone scaling up in the ever changing landscape.

I have no shares and have not received any financial payment from any of the companies mentioned in this article., nor do I endorse any of the companies.

Finally I end with an analogy, for the board members of Country Wide PLC [ if they
actually have a social media account ] to ponder over ,imagine Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, trying to sort of the problems at seaworld theme parks.

Further Reading

why Frank Whittle and the Saville row tailor have more in common with Warren Buffet

property eCommerce is booming !

UK's biggest estate agent Countrywide sees shares plunge 12% as shortage of properties for sale hits profits

Countrywide PLC UKs largest Real Estate Agency - Alison Platt CEO Let The Battle Commence Online

Online Estate Agent valued upto £250M IPO as Early as December 2015

Britain building again as new homes rise by a quarter

UK Mortgage and landlord possession statistics quarterly: July to September 2015

Almost twice as many brits believe that property makes better use of cash then isa , pensions stock , shares ,premium bonds online estate agent Vs Traditional Jamie Lester interview with Gaby Logan Radio 5 CEO Rob Ellice says 42 % of UK will soon be using Online Estate Agents

property eCommerce is booming !

Property Obudsman calls for property act ,50 % more lettings disputes , data also shows 25 % rise in online estateagents presence

Mortgage advances pick up in the third quarter says CML

UK Housebuilder Barratt Developments says UK has strong property Market

Upestates Online estate agency & will be expanding with 7 new offices in Birmingham Leicester & Nottingham

The number of High Street real estate agency uk jobs slowing at a dramatic rate 5000 decline factors

Former Cricket Team Aces Join the Online EstateAgent business model

Online Agency teams up with Property Detective to offer local API Data

Top Chef Tony Singh sells house with the help of tech company Periscope