In late 2012 Winkworth launched a new interior design and brand concept, revolutionising the original one.
"This concept was developed following a detailed market research programme, where carefully-selected focus groups were asked to talk about estate agents and their experience of them," comments James Peacock, Winkworth's Head of Brand.
"Time and time again, participants said that they really disliked visiting estate agents' premises. They reported feeling 'like prey' from the moment they stepped over the threshold and they disliked the regimented and formal way the offices were laid out. Interestingly, several people complained about the window displays blocking the view of the office interior - people wanted to be able to see in and get a feel for the space (and staff!) before they entered. So, the crux of it was that estate agents were getting it completely wrong and we decided it was time to do something about it," continues James.
The concept was developed to be much more inviting to clients. Individual 'desks' were abandoned and replaced with a larger 'kitchen' style oak table that all the agents in each office could sit at together, as well as uncluttered window displays with warm lighting so the view inside was no longer obscured.
Open plan offices were also introduced, with reception areas housing leather Chesterfield banquettes, bespoke to each Winkworth office, for potential vendors to sit at.
Whether an individual is looking to rebrand an existing agency and convert to the Winkworth concept, or whether a completely new cold-start office is being opened, the first step is to contact James Peacock to discuss what would work best for the space.
Potential franchisees will then be introduced to Winkworth's third party design company, who have been working on the brand refresh since the beginning, and provided with a completely comprehensive Interior and Design Manual, unique to Winkworth, to aid the two-stage process - outlined below:
STAGE ONE - briefing and sketch scheme scope
- - Site meeting to present the concept and discuss how the space will be used. A realistic budget must be provisionally agreed upon.
- - Take basic outline survey dimensions of site.
- - Production of a sketch layout plan to reflect the agreed scope of works. This could be freehand, or possibly CAD, depending on the size of site.
STAGE TWO - detailed design, specification, supplier invoices and procurement
For sites up to 800 sq ft:
- - Meeting to sign-off scheme.
- - Produce detailed drawings for the scheme to include: General arrangement plan.
- - Reflected ceiling plan showing lighting.
- - Wall elevations - including map wall dimensions to be forwarded to James Peacock, who will instruct the map illustrator.
- - Communal desk design.
- - Raise supplier invoices for furniture and lighting for direct payment by franchisee. Agree dates for delivery.
- - Send drawing package to contractors for competitive tender. Several contractors should be approached, including those that have successfully worked on previous Winkworth office schemes. If you have a contractor you would like to be included in this process, just let the project management team know.
"I always reiterate the importance of the time it could take to fit-out an office to all potential franchisees when they get to the design stage," says James. "Lead times of the loose furniture; office chairs especially, can take several weeks to arrive."
Realistically, Winkworth suggest a lead in time from initial meeting with Mr Peacock and the third-party design company - to the opening of the office, of 3-4 months.
Unsurprisingly, the most frequently asked question surrounding the interiors is cost. This cost is hugely variable and difficult to define as is largely dependent on size of the premises, table, banquette, bespoke area wall map and any structural changes one wishes to make. Having designed and fitted out over 70 offices since 2012, Winkworth can give a good idea of suggested cost after seeing an individual premises.