Shutting up

How long does it take to blu-tack a bit of Perspex to a few desks and make four dozen face masks out of some old socks?

Frankly, for an industry obsessed with branch offices it’s been pretty slow to re-open some of them. And one has to wonder why? I mean really why.

The corporate behemoths, in particular Countrywide and Spicerhaart, when challenged on their lethargy in un-mothballing issued reactionary statements that cited ‘following the right and proper processes to ensure branches are Covid secure’ and ‘carrying out proper risk assessments’ and ‘training staff to social distance’ and the like.

Some of these responses were made in mid-May, well over a month ago, yet some of the branches of these beleaguered businesses are still yet to open their doors.

That’s a lot of process being processed and a lot of training on how to tell what 2 metres looks like – hell, the rules just changed to a new social distance of 1 metre and which means, one imagines, that the training will have to start all over again due to this ‘sudden and unexpected recalibration’ as amended by government.

And this from a profession that measures rooms for a living. *Puts head in hands*.

Or, is the delay due to something else? I mean, surely even the most snail-like of corporate decision making can’t be this slow. Even continents shift faster.

One can only speculate and form a logical opinion – and so that’s what I’ve done, I’ve formed an opinion on the mystery behind these deep-frozen estate agency branches.

So imagine that times are tough in your estate agency business, you’re on the edge and then along comes a virus that halts all day to day trade. Tragedy.

But, what if, whilst you’re well and truly on the ropes now, a nice man from HM Treasury informs you that he’s going to pay your staff bill and defer your rates for a while.

Your landlord won’t be able to evict you for a period and so you can stop paying your rent. What’s more, the same nice man says you can apply for a £10,000 to £25,000 grant for each of your premises as well as an interest free loan courtesy of the tax-payer.

Now you’re sitting pretty. The wolves have been gently ushered from the door. For now.

You’ve also realised for a while since everyone has told you so ten thousand times, that to maintain a cumbersome branch network of hundreds of loss-making prime high street located office fronts is no longer necessary or sustainable – but up until now you just didn’t know how to cull them.

Nor had the guts to. And even if you did it would just look like a surrender to those nasty hybrid and online guys.

Ego being an important driver of commercial decisions (not), you continued business as usual hoping for a fairy or a genie in a lamp to one day come to your rescue in a dream or something.

But wait, the Covid crisis, horrendous tragedy that it is, provides you some cover.

Yes, financial cover for a while and also a means of shuttering branches and quietly not opening them again later on.

You can sit there hoping that no-one will notice that hundreds of your outlets have been put on permanent ice or, if you have a half-decent PR agency in tow, you might write a pre-emptive press release setting out how ‘Covid-19 has enabled us to rethink our long-term strategy and to understand that remote working through the technology that we’d already had the foresight to invest in, has allowed us to protect the sustainability of the company through operational consolidation without any detriment to the service we provide to our customers’. Or similar. (Corporates: Feel free to cut and paste this into your actual press release. Have this on me. You’re welcome).

I’m afraid that the cat, as they say, may just have popped it’s nose out of the bag.

I may well have just spilled the beans on what Countrywide, Spicerhaart and others are up to.

Yet, if this ‘stab in the dark’ is true then surely this move should have been made more honestly and without the false cover of Covid?

And definitely without stringing hundreds of staff along on furlough on the tax-payers’ shilling for weeks and weeks longer than necessary preventing them the opportunity of looking for jobs elsewhere.

If my tongue-in-cheek supposition here turns out to be true, then that’s a rotten way to behave.

Of course there’s also the question of why certain, formerly respected estate agency giants didn’t see the writing on the wall years ago and in spite of people like me grabbing their heads and pointing to the actual writing on the wall, figuratively speaking.

Mass branch closures by stealth? Probably.

But the question is, if so, is it too little too late for the industry whales? And will they survive the backlash let alone the ever deeper red-ink on their P and L’s?

I’ve written previously as to the sheepishness of the big estate agency bosses since lockdown first bit.

Little has been heard internally and even less so publicly in the way of any unprovoked statement of intent or strategic announcement.

No rallying call from the top-table to motivate the troops or to reassure the rank and file.

Any mere whisper heard from well-appointed Colchester mansions or Milton Keynes glass-fronted towers has all been rather on the back foot save for a certain cliff-edge video about ‘curling up and turning up’ of course.

But that doesn’t really count except for its comedy factor.

Shutting up? They have. And they will – their offices that is.

But if you thought the ‘shutting up’ headline of this piece alluded to me doing so, then I’m so very sorry to have disappointed you.

Up the workers.

Sprift 3 end of article

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  1. Anonymous Agent

    Nothing controversial in there Russell!

    1. Bless You

      Why is he even on here? Failed agent who helped kill many jobs.  

  2. mattfaizey

    So, exactly what is different from many, many many other high street shopfront style entities actions?

    I have zero care for the two firms you are grinding against (axe I mean), but this article displays certainly a hard-on them approach for these two.

    If what you’re alluding to is correct then you’re calling for them to cull the incomes of staff and thrust them into an environment where positions are scarce.

    In the name of fairness?

    It isn’t more fair to keep their income steady as long as possible? Especially so into what may be a more positive hiring environment.


  3. Jrsteeve

    Yeh, we should all learn from this guy how to lose millions and alienate people.

  4. propertyguru11

    “Sir, I only asked you if you want milk with your Americano, there are other people in queue who don’t want to hear that brain dump.”

  5. Hillofwad71

    He who casts the first stone  Priceless  giving others advice how  to run their own business ” Ego being an important driver of commercial decisions”  Pot and kettle .


    Should imagine that many firms are taking their time to decide which branches are likely to shut and make that  very  difficult decision to decide  which  of those  furloughed  jobs a little more permanant Some breathing space


    Nobody knows how the next few months are going  to pan out

    Headphones  has a  very short memory. Scroll back just  2 short years he was faced with the fact that one of his backers had pulled out of funding  at Emoov and now in  a dire financial predicament

    What does he do?Make that difficult  decision to shut up shop.let staff  go  ,stop recruiting  Will his ego allow that  or brazen it out hoping for a miracle ?


    Now faced with the reality of being unable to sweetalk any investor into sinking more money into the abyss   .desperate times shutting up shop was never an option for Headphones ego .it’s business as usual

    He turns  to the poor suckers on Crowdcube  All it needs is a good presentation   full of  candy floss and puffery .£104m  valuation money req’d for IPO and marketing .blah,blah  Riches within reach for investors  beyond dreams

    The poor mites parted with £2m  The champagne  bottles were popped


    Just enough to keep the lights on for a couple of months and now has the neck to condemn others of taking a more considered approach


    1. propertyguru11

      A sadly accurate description of the conman’s work. 
      You forgot to mention that while the company was sinking, he incorporated his next con – conpregranda – while customers paid for services they will never receive, he was already busy building his next scheme.  He also recruited that poor guy who joined two weeks before the company went down and for some reason still thinks that it was fair.
      Apparently KW’s job descriptions all start with “must not know how to google”… 

      1. JonnyBanana43

        BADLY judged column by PIE. 

  6. JohnJames

    There’s loads of spicerhaart branches still shut (= attempting a cover-up by running a fake ‘virtual’ office over the phone, with 1 depressed member of staff ignoring customer complaints). Near me more than half haven’t opened yet – maybe ever?

    Just feel sorry for the branch staff – they deserve better


  7. Taliesin84

    I trust the irony to this article, written by someone with such a ‘glowing’ CV, isn’t lost on fellow readers! Why Eye runs the comments of such an ‘expert’ is beyond me.

  8. rsvstu97

    Whether you like him or not he is correct.

    The unprofitable ones have remained shut. You might think this good for the staff but someone is paying this furlough bill and it will be all of us for some time to come.

    If they were loss making before C19 then they will be afterwards. It is ego and PR damage that keeps them ‘open’.

    1. JonnyBanana43

      Jackson Stops in York, looks unlikely to reopen. 

  9. PepeM

    Perhaps Mr Quirk would do better to worry about the current business he’s involved with rather than sprouting off about everyone else !

    Those knights in shining armour, Keller Williams, in spite of constantly posting wildly optimistic claims on LinkedIn etc. with apparently well over 200 self employed agents are currently showing just 200 or so properties SSTC. and 400 available. Sadly looks more like starvation for many never mind the future.

    Fact is Mr Quirk these are unprecedented times for everyone in the industry, all need to concentrate on their own business, There is no one size fits all.

  10. JonnyBanana43

    Sounds like you know what you’re doing RQ…suppose you’ve dodged a few bullets in your time. How many wolves did you have at your door?

    What grade did you get at O level / GCSE for ENGLISH? Your writing style is appalling, yet you obviously think you’re something special.

    VERY poor decision by PIE to give you space to write, particularly when the drivel you write is such nonsense. Grammatically incorrect nonsense too.

  11. James White

    It would be interesting to see a survey of agents.

    % of independent agents offices open v’s regional and multiple agents.

    I suspect that almost all single office agencies are now open and many corporate style agencies now working from smaller hubs; thus demonstrating that smaller, nimbler agency operators are well placed compared to their larger competitors.

  12. padymagic

    Dear Mr Q

    I gave up reading this 1/2 way through. What was the point of it?

  13. majortom1

    No prizes for reopening up the fastest. Ask the agents in Leicester that.

    1. chiponshoulder

      Quite a big prize for re-opening swifty AND safely though MajorTim, with Connells proving that both were entirely possible.   Instructions and Sales are both significantly up on last June and the lettings market is booming.  Motivated branch staff delighted to be back selling in a safe and secure manner; in full knowledge that their employer is committed to them and the future of traditional high street agency.   Housebuilders delighted that their agents are open and being proactive – as opposed to largely closed and largely silent!

      1. majortom1

        I agree-I imagine all agents are on line for one of their best months ever and potentially we are on line for our best New Homes sales month in the firms history-fingers crossed. Lettings as you rightly say are through the roof. We certainly are enjoying the bounce back -its great news. Long may it continue and I hope ALL agents can recover some of the years shortfall in Q3.

  14. El Burro

    ‘Stringing hundreds of staff along’,  ‘a rotten way to behave’, quite right it is Russell, just ask your Emoov staff and investors.

    You’re only successful role seems to be lighting the blue touch paper on platforms such as this and standing back to admire your handy work.

    That apart you’re an irrelevance.

  15. chiponshoulder

    Again Quirk infers all corporates are the same, yet Connells Group had ALL of their c.600 branches open in a Covid-secure manner (full PPE, risk assessments and staff training etc) within a week of restrictions being lifted.   Their 7,000 staff have received excellent levels of support and communication during the lockdown period (as can be evidenced from hundreds of social media posts), with a top up to 100% of their full salary and commission for furloughed staff throughout April to July inclusive.   
    There remains many corporates and independents closed within the localities that Connells operate within and each will have their own reasons for doing so.  Quirk should stop badging ALL corporates as slow moving behemoths lacking agility and enterprise when the likes of Connells (and some others) aptly demonstrate exactly the reverse and produce results to disprove his theory!

  16. GeorgeHammond78

    ‘Shutting Up’ If only he would…….

  17. Probably Pork in the Pie

    Nothing to see here.  Please move along.

    Quirk, stop wasting everyones time writing this drivel.

    PIE, why are you giving airtime to a failed agent who deserted his customers and alienated his staff?


  18. devonlondoner59

    PIE, why are you giving this guy column inches? He spectacularly failed with his on line service.  He’s just a fake it til you make it, of whom there many more… all out for self publicity.  Please STOP!

    1. Dyane

      Hear, hear! PIE please stop give space to this industry embarrassment.

      No more Quirk please.



      No more.

      He may give you cheap ‘column inches’ but you’re starting to show that you don’t seem to have the journalistic integrity to write your own copy….

      There are plenty of agency websites that we can go to if we just want copy and paste press releases from abject failures like Quirk

      1. propertyguru11

        If you look at his LinkedIn profile, you can see he’s proud to annoy so many people by getting ‘traffic’.

        This guy just can’t understand when people are laughing at him, not with him, as everyone knows he’s the UK’s worse businessman of the decade.


        Poor Ros, has to see a lifetime of work on a brand being demolished by some arrogant clown

  19. Robert_May

    Shutting up
    July 2, 2020 | Russell Quirk

    that’s enough of that

  20. JEL

    just trying to be controversial for the sake of it

  21. Commentator91

    Shut up RQ!


  22. LogicR

    RQ has a tiny…..


    Answers on a postcard to PIE if he continues to get to write narcissistic, ego driven, drivel?


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