EYE NEWSFLASH: Jobs go at Spicerhaart and some offices will not re-open in foreseeable future

Spicerhaart has closed its offices temporarily during the coronavirus crisis and confirmed that some will not re-open in the foreseeable future. It has laid off a number of staff.

Exact numbers have not been revealed yet by Spicerhaart but are thought to be significant.

One person claimed to EYE that the first staff knew was when the computers in the offices went down, saying: “No one was made aware of this and most branches found out by their computers going into lock-down giving us no access to data or the phone system.

“Within ten minutes of this happening we had a phone call from the area manager informing us that in fact our branches had been shut down and all made redundant.”

However a Spicerhaart spokesperson said this morning that the reason computers went off in branches yesterday was because staff were about to take them off the premises in order to work from home.

CEO Paul Smith said last night: “As the UK’s largest independent estate agency group, we have worked swiftly to address the impact of coronavirus on our business by temporarily closing our branches and giving our workforce the equipment and resources they need to work from home.

“This will ensure we continue to give excellent advice and support to customers across our estate agency, lettings, mortgages, surveying plus land and new homes divisions.

“We have also worked judiciously to identify cost reductions across the business and this inevitably means that some of our branches will not be re-opening in the foreseeable future and this, very regrettably, has meant that we have had to lay off some of our staff. Their workload will be taken over by employees from other branches.

“We are desperately sorry to see these people go, but the best way for us to stay strong as a business during this very challenging and unpredictable time is to take action early in order to secure our long term future.

“We are disappointed that the Chancellor did not extend the business rates payment holiday to estate agents as he has done to retailers and the impact of this will be to ensure that high streets up and down the land will have even more empty shops than ever before.

“However, new opportunities will arise out of adversity and new ways of working will become the norm as the estate agency profession gears up for one of the biggest challenges we have collectively ever faced.”

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74 Comments

  1. TDGC

    Wonder if there’ll be a change of tact here following the chancellor’s announcement of protecting up to 80% of salaries therefore, at least,  buying those that have been affected up to three months to find alternatives by giving them a ‘leave of absence’

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    1. Ostrich17

      Mr Smith joins Mr Gonsalves in the “ready,fire,aim” club.

      The Chancellor’s offer to pay upto 80% of the salaries of furloughed employees will not apply to those being made redundant. 🙁

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      1. TipsyKoi1966

        If you read Ms Renshaw’s latest article you will see that the rules are not clear .. by any stretch. The club you mention now contains 1000s of good agents who have realised SSTC could drop to almost zero – which may come back, and new sales zero for 3 – 6 months?? Easy to chuck stones if you don’t have any staff or are a 2-man band

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        1. Ostrich17

          From gov.uk website :

          “The scheme also covers employees who were made redundant since 28 February 2020, if they are rehired by their employer.”

           

           

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    2. EASPORTS84

      Problem is they weren’t making any money before this happened and the basics are so low they probably still have to top up there wage to come up to the national minimum wage, any managers or senior members are all on guaranteed income ( which their contract stipulates would have to be paid back if their still within 12 months of initial employment ) of which are likely to be more than the 30k gross government is promising which is only for 3 months and the sales pipeline will be effected for at least 8 months plus so they are in trouble either way.

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  2. The Outsider

    What an awful way to find out you’re losing your job. Great management Paul!

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    1. AgencyInsider

      It sounds very brutal but unfortunately is necessary in circumstances like that. An aggrieved staff member with access to the computer systems can do an awful lot of mischief very quickly.

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  3. TipsyKoi1966

    Shame, the casualties are starting to pile up. Is this the beginning or the end? Some bits of employment regs should be scrapped so that SMEs can be more flexible and safeguard the majority by downscaling.

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  4. agent sami

    Sad to hear this. But I agree that if they don’t extend the business rates solution to agents then some will close. Imagine we can’t barely operate our business if we can’t conduct viewings. Bars get relief because the customers can’t buy pints. We should be considered the same as the industry still relies on face to face viewings

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  5. Tinylettingagent

    As a small agency I am pleased with the announcement yesterday.  I will be talking to my staff and taking advantage of the government offer yesterday and putting my staff on gardening leave.  I will top their money up so they receive 100% pay for the few months it is being offered.  Better this and I keep my staff for the recovery or I try to keep them on and I go bust and no one wins.

     

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    1. TDGC

      Love it!!!!!

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    2. TipsyKoi1966

      The ostrich slowly ambles towards a pile of warm snuggly sand ….. 

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    3. Hillofwad71

      Top Man .

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  6. Sunbeam175

    What a disgusting way to treat your loyal staff! We are working together with our staff during this difficult times to get through it the best we can as I’m sure everyone else is, except Spicerhaart apparently!

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    1. hertsagent13

      With respect I suspect there will be a massive scale difference between your business and Spicer Hart. No one should be judged for making tough decisions in unprecedented times.

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  7. smile please

    This is the idiot that’s been banging on over the last few years how financially secure they are on his monthly potshots to other agents on PIE

    Confirming what I always thought of him.

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    1. nick1927

      So glad someone typed it!! Loathe (but can’t help) reading his articles! Anyone with a spicerhaart office near by them, knows the type of agency they are. Yet he always sat on his pedestal dictating to other agents how we should run ours. Awful for the staff however  🙁

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    2. JohnJames

      Well said! Paul’s father must be aghast at what his son’s doing to his legacy.

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  8. Hillofwad71

    EMPLOYER OF THE YEAR

    Smith reminds me of that guy in the  Titanic who jumped into  the lifeboat set aside for women and children.

     

    Disgrace wielding the knife so soon in an uncertain outcome .What a way to treat your staff in a crisis  Surely someone like Spicerhaart can carry staff costs for a month  to see how things develop Shut down the offices sure

     

    You can guarantee that the infrastructure wont be in place  for  those members  of staff  to claim the 80% of their salary

    Business rates   in the vast majority of offices are below  the lowest paid members of staff

     

    Singular lack of empathy . Quite extraordinary that the preference is to keep paying RM rather than a valued member of staff

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    1. TipsyKoi1966

      It will not change in a month, read the science. In the next month it’ll be an ostrich or hawk method where the ostriches will do nothing and the hawks will drop their weight and become as fleet of foot as they can be. It’s easier to dive for the snuggly sand pile and bury your head completely 

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      1. Hillofwad71

        Not referring to the spread  of Coronavirus  and will get worse  but  the  Govt response might change towards business rates etc  staff 
        So another  month or so isnt going to turn  Spicerhaart into a turkey or cook their goose 
         
              

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        1. TipsyKoi1966

          Maybe, but your SSTC pipeline will only carry you so far and waiting for a bus that you know isn’t coming is for dodos. And we both know how that story ended 

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  9. GPL

     
    We are all looking carefully at our business/es however it’s simply shameful to deal with your employees in such a savage manner.
     
    By all means we have to deal with tough decisions however have RESPECT for your employees and manage those tough decisions in order to help them cope.
     
    I wonder how you would feel if I walked into your office Paul, lifted you by the lapels, marched you to the front door, shoved you out onto the pavement ……and said “You’re Fired”. That’s what you really did Paul.
     
    Best NOT to show face here or anywhere else. The black spot is firmly on You.
     
    Positive thoughts to those employees that Paul terminated. Hoping that a suitable opening comes your way when we get through this very challenging period.
     
     

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    1. AdamG

      If you did do that GPL at least it would have been face to face!  Closing an office or laying people off with a phone call is unforgivable and shows a complete lack of respect for your staff.  Hopefully other employees at SH will be taking note and once this situation has passed will move to an employer that will apricate their hard work.  Forget the slick branding, any agent is only as good as its team.

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  10. Homestead38

    Compare this to the message that all those in the Connells Group received from their top team yesterday. David Livesey putting staff and their families first, not shying away from the challenges that lie ahead but calm and sincere pulling his business together to get through this and providing the kind of leadership you want in times of crisis.

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    1. Property Pundit

      How on earth can someone give this comment a thumbs down? Shame on you, a$$hole.

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      1. GPL

        Ditto – THUMBS UP!

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    2. EASPORTS84

      Connells staff will be next especially London they make no money whatsoever. 

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      1. chiponshoulder

        Complete nonsense and highly irresponsible of you to post this without any knowledge of Connells position.   Why on earth would you want to create more anxiety than already exists by such a statement.   Shame on you!

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        1. Top Half

          Here, here…nice to see a respectful and thoughtful approach

           

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  11. brokerofexcellence

    Saw this breaking all over my Linked In last night. Heartbreaking for their staff. l’ve only seen EA and lettings staff mentioned, is there any news on Mortgage advisers?

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    1. MortgageMonkey

      Most of the mortgage advisers were moved over to self-employed contracts so apart from the fact they won’t be getting as many leads probably unaffected.

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  12. whatdoiknow58

    Given the size of the business this ‘strategy ‘ cannot have been planned overnight so a quick mothball the branches and get rid of as many staff as possible would have been decided when exactly? No doubt Mr Smith will let us know in due course with another of his I can do it better than you given half a chance or better still just blame it all on CWD as usual.

    Haart means no Heart.

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    1. Outofideas

      Those were my thoughts exactly. The fact that they’ve said some may not re-open just shows that it was part of a bigger strategic decision but using the virus as a shield. All is not well on the balance sheet me thinks!

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      1. Getitdone

        I agree. The fact is that they employed an senior ex Purple Bricks director recently. Someone who clearly knows how to run an agency from home. Next offices closed and remaining staff have to work from home. This has to be planned months ago and the with this horrible virus in the news there was the perfect opportunity to bring the closure plan forward, initiate remote working and blame it on a virus. Seeing as though just weeks ago adverts went public trying to recruit more staff amid the LSL potential takeover of Countrywide some Spicerhaart staff feared the recruitment spree was a way to build a spoke or remote workers and install a purple brick model or working.  Seeing as though Paul Smith has said that some.office won’t reopen and those staff being kept on are working from home due.to the virus, it’ll be interesting to see if any office actually reopen or if they’ll all be working from home, online only.

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  13. Mrlondon52

    If you spend your time lecturing others how to run their business in public then you are a target. Perhaps spend less time on CWD and Leaders financials and more time on Spicers’

    Best of luck to everyone – let’s hope the Govt 80% salary promise is fulfilled.

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  14. phil@4cornersproperty.co.uk

    The financial loss in this country will be greater than the human loss and it will be felt for years to come. Without sounding like a harbinger of doom, this is the slip into the biggest time of financial and mental depression we will ever likely face in our lifetime.

    What we need to is look at ways to help and support each other.

    Come together to explore and find new ways of conducting business, as it WILL be different when this is over.

    I hope everyone firstly stays well in health and lets connect together, we all have the same goals and aspirations as each other in this industry that has so far been a target for so many but we will win, i am sure.

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  15. Ben_Madden

    Whether you agree with this approach or not, one point remains true, we have been forgotten about by chancellor in regards to business rates. We have seen what our collective power can do when we pushed back on the portals, now we need to do the same in regards to rates.

    This petition began circulating yesterday and we’re approaching 2,000 signatures, I would urge you all to sign, share and ask everyone in your network to do the same. We must collectively take action now.

    https://www.change.org/p/boris-johnson-offer-business-rates-relief-to-estate-and-lettings-agencies-during-the-covid-19-crisis?recruiter=735050810&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=share_petition

     

     

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    1. Hillofwad71

      Kevin Hollinrake MP who you would have thought would be the natural champion of estate agents has been Twittering away but has steered completely away from mentioning  the fact that  estate agents have been excluded from business rates relief.
       
        Tell him what  you think  

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      1. JEL

        same as the tenant fee ban….did nothing

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  16. surrey1

    Appalling. Tells you all you need to know about the man.

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  17. mro123432

    Not a surprise, spicerhaart are the worst company in our industry when it comes to staff treatment. No class

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  18. NewHomesinDisguise

    Anyone would think this has been planned for some time. After all, its not a decision to be made lightly and without much thought.

    Just a week ago, Mr Smith and his senior team were plastering social media with slogans such as ‘We’re employing Country Wide’ in response to LSL deciding not to offer for CWD – which at the time i thought was crass and insensitive with little thought given to how it would be perceived.

    Fast forward a week. Redundancies without any notice? Do consultancy periods not apply to spicerhaart? Loyal members of staff, some of whom have given years of service to Mr Smith, just shown the door with little or no idea of what happens next. New members of staff the same. Just shown the door with no regard to their wellbeing at all!

    All this took place at almost the exact moment that the government were announcing a raft of measures to ensure that people can keep their jobs. Including subsidising 80% of wages – as far as jm aware, this does apply to agents. As does the VAT deferral.

    As I said, this has clearly been planned for some time and hastily timed to be hidden in the middle of a national crisis. Shame on you Mr Smith! Have a haart!

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    1. whatdoiknow58

      Totally agree. No doubt Smith followed the same route as Gonsalves in dumping anyone with under two years employment to get around the consultancy process which given their staff turnover is probably 30 percent of their current workforce.

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  19. WiltsAgent

    Brown Trouser management from this ‘Guru’. Plainly Haart are not is a stable position and have been revealed as swimming without clothes now the tide has gone out.

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    1. JohnJames

      Yes I wouldn’t want to be owed money by spicerhaart at the moment, clear cash troubles

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  20. Paul Travers

    You can really see what Paul Smith cares about the most when the first words of his press release about redundancies are:

    “As the UK’s largest independent estate agency group… ”

    Always good to start with a bit of self-congratulation.

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  21. Tinkerbel0182

    In a world where you can be anything……DONT BE A PAUL SMITH

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  22. AnyoneForCoffee

    Would anyone have expected anything less than this from one of the biggest  hypo£rites in the property industry. Some of these closures and redundancies will have been planned months ago if not years and in the present conditions  and late on a Friday has looked to have been buried under other news. I am sure Mr Smith will still sleep well while hundreds of good, ( foolishly ) loyal staff will not. Good luck to all those unfortunate staff who have been part of this terrible action by Spicer Hartless and in particular Mr Smith.

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  23. Probably Pork in the Pie

    NEWSFLASH:  Paul Smith reveals his exit strategy from estate agency, and shuffles off into the sunset clutching his bags of cash.

    But don’t forget people, its still the UK’s largest independent estate agency group!!

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  24. International

    A great shame indeed and I regret to say that we are likely to do something very similar. If you wait until the cash runs out, you won’t have a business going forward and thus unable to re-instate employment.

    I am awaiting clarification, but I suspect that the 80% basic salary contributions may only be available to businesses that have been forced to close, like the bars etc.,

    I wonder if they have stopped their contract with Rightmove like so many of us now have.

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  25. new life

    Can someone please tell me what the NAEA, ARLA are doing to put our case forward to government re being left out of the financial assistance that has been afforded to other industries

    They are quick enough to  send me a reminder that my fees are due in May …..!! might not even have a Job in May ANOTHER case of self preservation me thinks.

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  26. PeeBee

    This rounds off a week where the decisions of those that run businesses have come under extreme criticism and pressure – and change has been effected in light of this industry pressure.

    At the end of the day Mr Smith doesn’t have to answer to the masses – he is not a supplier and his decisions don’t affect the fortunes of other agencies in the way that the likes of Rightmove/Zoopla/OTM do – but at a time where Agents have actually managed to lay down their collective differences and pool their individual strengths to bring about change to protect their futures this is on the face of it a brutal decision which his competitors will no doubt jump on to gain competitive advantage… thus compounding the problem further for them.

    Those who own or run businesses – in every industry – are the decision makers, and sometimes those decisions are tough.

    And sometimes those decisions are wrong.  This one is no doubt going to be subject of debate for ‘many and many a’ (credit: Stephen King)

    But those who have already commented that this particular decision wasn’t just made in the last few days, you have to question whether it was made back in December, when the former Purplebricks Sales Director climbed on board the SS Spicerhaart – apparently with the remit to

    “…grow the Spicerhaart business to cover every single postcode in England and Wales.”

    You can’t do that by shutting up shops…

    …or can you?

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    1. GPL

       
      Agreed PeeBee ……round up the usual suspects, in terms of those that use Bad News as a cover story to execute a plan that was hatched much, much earlier.
       
       

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    2. Property Pundit

      I saw what you did there!

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  27. RobWellstead

    I own Lenwell, a 6 branch letting agent operating in Bedford, Dunstable, Hitchin, Luton, Milton Keynes and Northampton since 1990.
     
    If you work in lettings for Haart in our area and have been let go please get in contact with me direct. When this is over we will need good staff to continue building our business and whilst we know it will be a difficult time agents that are strong and more importantly supportive of the teams they employ will come out of this even stronger. 

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  28. IndAgent

    Can someone tell me please is this 80% wage deal applies to agents? I’m losing sleep over this. Also I’m wondering if this will be based on recent earnings and not just basic salaries? My team have reasonable basics but also rely on their commission. Any info much appreciated.

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    1. Anthony Hesse

      It is all a little sketchy at the minute, but the Chancellor said that the Government will pay 80% of salary for staff who are kept on by their employer, covering wages of up to £2,500 a month.

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      1. International

        Anthony – I awaiting clarity as indeed are we all, but I suspect the 80% will only be paid to those who are kept on, but in businesses that are made to close. EA’s have not been ordered to close.

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        1. haveathink

          My understanding is that it is for staff you effectively have laid off – essentially though that staff member retains their earnings up to 30k a year  (you contribute 20% to them) and the government the rest.   Happy to be corrected but that is my accountant’s reading of it – and the details have not been fully verified.

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  29. Tinylettingagent

    These are difficult times but I truly believe we will get through this.  I am doing my utmost to retain my staff and if it means taking advantage of the gov plans, then I will.

    Good staff are the lifeblood of this industry and maybe the future will be kinder to the small guys and not so the corporates.

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    1. chiponshoulder

      That’s right … because all corporates are the same aren’t they?????   Presumably all the small guys are the same too????

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  30. Sa2020

    I am one of the people let go yesterday, after working for haart for 7 years I never thought it would end in such a ruthless way, no notice, no information on financial support, just read from a script over the phone, for a company that prided itself on being “A Family” it has acted in a way that is unforgivable, these are very hard times for all employers, but the hard times are temporary, however the way this company has treated it’s staff will remain permanent for those affected.

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    1. NewHomesinDisguise

      Sorry to hear that you are one of those affected by this. I genuinely hope that you manage to find something else quickly.

       

      I notice that lots of companies are reaching our to spicerhaart team members who are now finding themselves looking for new opportunities. Just goes to show, not all companies are the same!

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  31. Head held high

    I was with SpicerHaart for two weeks and have had the phone call telling me I no longer have a job, closing branches, seemingly getting rid of most experienced staff therefore highest earners, along with anyone in probation period. Disgraceful way to treat people. The recruitment process was farcical from start to finish, now this.

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    1. Top Half

      Sorry to hear of this experience coming at such a time when our emotions are already heightened – wish you well – and if you are passionate about the industry and customer service then do positively look forward.

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  32. GPL

    Positive thoughts for those Employees let go by Spicerhaart/Paul Smith. Dreadful news delivered in a dreadful way. I’m sure all of us PIE’ers will send positive thoughts to the footsoldiers in these difficult times. We will come out of the other side, even although it looks grim just now.

     

     

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  33. GPL

     

    …….a short aside ……note of Thanks to Ros and her team (Ros, Ros & Ros?) ……undoubtedly grafting hard in the background of this unique time.

     

     

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  34. TipsyKoi1966

    After reading the last few posts I would like to doff my cap to the community and will raise a glass this evening – at home, the first of many. This is serious and lives are affected.

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  35. Gloucester_Agent

    Awww….the warm bosom of the “Spicerhaart Family”. Until such time as you are no longer needed then you are cast aside like an old toy. Business is business and costs are rightly under review by every firm in the land but this treatment of human beings is callous and shows haart for what they truly are.

    The PS columns on PIE have always been a difficult read; condescending, self righteous and gossip ridden tosh hidden under the guise of wanting the best for the industry. I sincerely hope that now the mask has slipped PIE will do the correct thing and no longer run any columns from a man who clearly cares for nobody but himself.

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  36. Not Surprised

    Is anyone really surprised that Paul Smith has done this? Anyone who has worked at Spicerhaart will not be. There’s always been a history of not looking after his staff. From taking away sick pay for years (later reinstated), never giving a pay rise, never training anyone unless they earned a fee or getting a rollicking if you supported anyone who left.

    Imagine loyally working for them for 20+ years to be told in a one way scripted conversation that this is the end, having been shut out of your operating system moments before.

    Even now, the silence form the senior team is deafening. They’ve had all weekend to share some compassionate words, especially given the thrashing they’ve had and all we’ve had is brand ambassadors spouting ‘business as usual’ from their thrown together home offices. The senior team can’t be seen to be supporting those that have left, even if they themselves are devastated about the news they had to deliver.

    I think we all get it that SH must be on their knees (not that PAS would ever say it) and that branches needed to close. That no amount of help from the Gov would really have helped at the end. I get that.

    But to be so disgustingly inhumane, and possibly illegal, in his actions is so much worse than anyone thought he would go. Remarkable from the haart family. Isn’t it ironic.

    We’ll have to watch and see what might emerge from the flames. Reputation won’t be that’s for sure.

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  37. Industry insider

    If you go through Haarts accounts it seems their operating losses were approx £4,500,000 over 2017 and 2018. Losses at those levels will put any independent firm under pressure. Maybe Paul Smith and Haart buckled under the costs and losses. Haart’s senior management will know the full story – they should explain the full position. The reputation of Haart is currently in tatters with national newspapers running updates on the sackings.

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  38. James Wilson

    Years in the future people will look back at this period as a healthy things.  This episode is going to kill the old, inefficient and high fee “traditional” industry.  EA has had decades to modernise and resolutely refused to.  Now change is going to be forced upon it.  But the resulting industry (much cheaper and more effiient) will serve the country much better (and maybe be less hated by everyone!).  Let’s hope.

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    1. PeeBee

      Are you for real?

      Never mind years in the future – you take a look back today.

      Where are the majority of the companies that were going to kill the old, inefficient and high fee “traditional” industry”?

      They are gone.

      Their (much cheaper and more effiient)” models were unsustainable – because they underpriced themselves into bankruptcy.

      At what point will you lot realise reality…

      …and stop being such complete d!cks in the process?

      Report
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