‘Business guru’ bill soars to $14k

Toby HusseyAlbany Advertiser
Samantha Reece plans to help Albany businesses attract more customers.
Camera IconSamantha Reece plans to help Albany businesses attract more customers. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

New figures show Albany ratepayers stumped up nearly $14,500 for two mystery shopper visits last year — more than twice the amount previously reported.

Figures from the City of Albany’s final council meetings of 2018 reveal the City spent $14,485 to bring business guru Samantha Reece to town in 2018, well above the $6800 cost reported in October.

Originally, the Albany Advertiser reported the $6800 cost based on figures revealed in City of Albany documents in the weeks following Ms Reece’s visit.

However, documents released in November and December show the true cost was more than double that figure.

Ms Reece was paid $13,375 in two instalments for her trip to Albany, with the City covering $1110 for flights and accommodation.

In a project that took some business owners by surprise, the self-titled business guru visited 36 stores in the CBD on August 7, secretly rating each on presentation, customer service and sales closure.

Calling herself “tough love Oprah”, she later provided each with a critique of their stores and customer service, and invited them to a workshop.

However, many shop owners said they were unsatisfied, claiming they were not confident of Ms Reece’s advice.

At the time, City of Albany executive director corporate services Michael Cole acknowledged responses were mixed, saying “(some businesses) were not open to any changes”.

That statement did not sit well with York Street business owner Scott Stronach, who said the City should be working directly with shops to boost sales.

“We appreciate the council trying to do something, and we’d like them to try and do more — just consult us first,” he said.

“Negative talk isn’t going to get us anywhere... (for the City) to turn around and say we’re resistant to change, it’s not realistic.”

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