Deal or No Deal- Why the Sale of Countrywide Matters
As I write this I must declare an interest before I start, I am grateful to Countrywide as I started my agency career with them in the 1980’s and in my first year, I earnt five-times my previous salary pre-agency, and became a manager with a brand new BMW. Back then graft, service and esprit de corps was expected and richly rewarded.
Pushing this aside, the reason why Countrywide PLC and its present predicament matters, is that in many high streets nationally they have a branch, a big church like building, typically with huge windows. And they are a metaphor for what agency was, and perhaps not what agency is going to be.
So whatever happens to Countrywide PLC, is probably going to be the outcome for all other agents in the high street.
In February 2020, I was famously quoted in ‘The Daily Telegraph’…
– Stanton says that ‘Countrywide’s failure to embrace the so-called proptech revolution has left it a financially wounded dinosaur.’ Analyst Andrew Stanton warns ‘A personalised, tech-based service – with connections across digital platforms and smart phones – means there will be less need for hundreds of branches’.
And this is the important consideration – the slow motion car crash of Countrywide PLC, the abject mis-management from the departing c-suite and the 500M of losses in the last three-years has been watched by everyone in the property sector, so no cigars for predicting the knife edge deal or no deal situation it is now in.
But the bigger underlying question should be – what in five years’ time will Gen-Y, expect real estate to smell and taste like, as these consumers of the property asset class will form the largest group.
Will they be praying in the property churches on the high street, like mum and dad did, or will the pandemic and the fourth-digital industrial revolution mean they do everything on that slim glass fronted oblong welded into their hand?
Add to this that over half the globe now has a population that is Generation-Z the young techy-native Zoomers, and I would be thinking long and hard before ‘buying’ an analogue Dinosaur agency with a myriad of agency brands whose profit base possibly lies in the past, and maybe think about changing to a digital pathway to do things.
For sure Countrywide could if it gets it wrong, end up going down an asset stripping route, – ‘Greed is good’ – Gordon Ghekko style, as it seems to have rejected the Connells offer which at least brings a successful and multi-million profit making management team to the table.
But deal or no deal the real bigger questions are – what in 2025 will be the role and function of estate agents in the UK? and will Countrywide be part of it?
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