Your Move and Reeds Rain parent company LSL has told The Negotiator that the decision to cut its network from 308 to 144 directly-operated branches has been vindicated.
Helen Buck, who is the company’s Executive Director of its estate agency division, says the process of closing branches or transferring 39 offices to David Newnes’ company National Home Move is now complete.
The former Sainsbury’s senior executive also says the company’s 144 ‘keystone’ branches are up and running. These offices, which serve larger areas but have bigger teams, have also grabbed more market share, she claims.
Buck says although the loss of jobs was regrettable, many people were transferred to other branches and that half of the people lost from the business have been re-employed elsewhere. This includes at its Homefast conveyancing admin centre in Cheadle or at its growing part-exchange hub in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire.
The average staff count at Your Move and Reeds Rains branches has also increased from 5.5 to 7 people.
“We looked at the portfolio and tried to focus on the ones that had the ability to be sustainable given that the days of big house sales volumes ended following the financial crash,” says Buck. “So we wanted to retain the branches with the best scale and local shares of the market.”
She says a lot of branches were ‘trundling along’ but weren’t really contributing, even though they needed a large infrastructure to support them.
“By cutting back to the keystone branches we were also able to resize the central functions and for example we moved our lettings centre in Cheadle to Southampton to create a bigger, better hub,” she says.
Buck says it’s been a painful experience to lose people, but she feels LSL is now a more ‘right-sized’ business.
She’s also been busy communicating and reassuring staff about the new direction of the business. This has included a programme of roadshows to plug the message that LSL overall is now ready to take advantage of the much-hoped-for market upturn expected this year.
“There are a lot of buyers around and there are properties coming on but it’s too early to tell,” she says.
But Buck denies that competition from online agents was a factor in the decision to cut the two brands’ branch networks.
“We’ve watched the online agents take some market share, but we think the high-street based format will continue to dominate for the foreseeable future,” she says.