In a drive around prosperous towns in southern England, there aren’t that many empty high street premises, but a significant number of those that are empty bear the names of estate agencies that are, quite suddenly, gone.
The Negotiator reported last month that estate agency was the fourth largest category of high street closures at 143 during the first six months of the year – and it is a continuing trend.
In some cases it is a happy, ‘moving on’ … ‘retiring’… merging, for instance, McAuley Miller, in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, recently been acquired by Martin & Co. – MD David Rogers has owned the Tunbridge Wells branch of Martin & Co, since 2009, and McAuley Miller is his third and largest acquisition.
David said, “We’re delighted to have completed on this acquisition and certainly hope there will be many more to come as we look to grow the business.”
Not so happy moves
In other cases, closures are the natural churn of less-well performing branches of larger groups, but the most poignant reports are of the long established, previously highly successful local brands.
In Sherborne, Dorset, Gilyard Scarth has closed, along with its other offices in Shaftesbury and Gillingham – all highly desirable areas for buyers.
The local press reported that Richard Keenlyside, said that the closure of Gilyard Scarth will affect him deeply and he doubts he’ll be able to walk past the empty High Street shopfront, where he spent 23 years of his career. “I’ve thought about this a lot. I feel sick about the whole thing. I won’t be able to get inside any more. My brilliant staff won’t be there. It will be horrible. I will definitely have to walk to the other side of the street for quite a long time,” said Richard.
Another even more surprising closure has been two out of three branches of Saxe Coburg, operating in what the press calls the on the most expensive real estate market in the UK – Sandbanks, Dorset.
The company is owned by Maximillian De Kment, also the Chief Executive of Lovett International. Lovett is a separate company, which is unaffected.
The Daily Echo reported that a spokesperson for Saxe Coburg said, “The majority of our enquiries are now coming from the internet, rather than members of the public walking in to any of our offices.”
The question is, is this normal churn or is it a real breakdown in estate agency businesses?