Countrywide yesterday did not respond to speculation as to whether its high-profile managing director of retail, Sam Tyrer, has left. If true, questions are bound to be asked about Countrywide’s retail strategy and whether this has failed.
Inquiries from EYE yesterday went unanswered by the company’s press office, as did inquiries also made by us both yesterday and last week on a possible online acquisition which we understand has been made by Countrywide.
We understand from sources that staff were told yesterday about Tyrer’s departure.
Further speculation suggests that Margaret Longden could take on the role. She is currently business development director at “retail and London Countrywide” according to her online profile and is a director of Propoly – an online lettings business that Countrywide has invested in but apparently not yet used.
The entirely separate estate agency business acquisition that we have inquired about could also add a new dimension to Countrywide’s plans regarding the online sector. If what we have been told is correct, the acquisition could enable an alternative entrance into that sector with no branches. We have been told it is a £16m deal, and we believe that the business last exchanged hands not long ago.
Tyrer’s LinkedIn profile still describes her as Countrywide’s managing director of “retail”, and there was no announcement yesterday to the London Stock Exchange – although that might not be regulatory news since Tyrer is not on Countrywide’s board of directors.
Tyrer – like CEO Alison Platt – is not from an estate agency background. Tyrer was previously with Carphone Warehouse where she rose to become UK retail and services director.
In her role at Countrywide, Tyrer has been in charge of estate and letting agency operations – effectively taking over from Bob Scarff who was made redundant in the spring of 2015. He has subsequently described Countrywide’s insistence that estate agency is a “retail” business as “ludicrous” and “preposterous”.
While not on the board of directors, yesterday Tyrer remained listed on Countrywide’s website as being on the executive team, where it says: “Sam is responsible for delivering the transformation of Countrywide’s sales and lettings business across the UK.”
There have been branch closures, redundancies and reorganisations at Countrywide in the last two tumultuous years at Britain’s largest agent, and the launch of an online offering.
It was Tyrer who announced this in June last year, with customers being able to choose to sell their homes via a full-service operation or a cheaper fixed-price online service. The offering also allows vendors who have chosen the latter to switch to a full offering and get a refund on what they have paid upfront – around £1,000 – for the online service.
In its last set of results, Countrywide reported that over half its branches were now offering the online option.
In those same results, Countrywide reported a 98% drop in profits during the first half of this year and said it was cancelling its dividend. Residential transactions were down from 33,940 to 27,100.
CEO Platt insisted that Countrywide had made “real progress in extending our multi-channel offering”. However, she said that even in branches where the digital offering was available, over 95% of customers choose to use the traditional services.
EYE has asked Countrywide about Tyrer’s possible departure and also about an acquisition we have been told about – by a usually impeccable source – and which could offer the business a second, or alternative, route into the online market which would not be based on branches.
Yesterday, Countrywide shares ended the day at 154.75p, a slight dip from its opening price of 156.75. Almost exactly a year ago, on August 24, the shares hit a 52-week high at 278.60p.