The Girl Scouts Have Millions of Unsold Crackers – Finance and Trade

The Girl Scouts Have Millions of Unsold Crackers – Finance and Trade

Parisi said Girl Scouts of the USA did forecast lower sales this year due to the pandemic. But coronavirus restrictions were constantly shifting, and the cookie orders placed by its 111 local councils with bakers last fall were still too optimistic. The council is now encouraging people to buy boxes online through its Hometown Heroes program, which distributes cookies to health care workers, firefighters and others. It also organized one-day sales with organizations like the New Mexico United soccer team, to whittle the total down further. By early spring, when troops usually set up booths to sell cookies in person, U.S. coronavirus cases were still near their peak. Hundreds of girls opted not to sell cookies in person. Online sales and even a delivery partnership with Grubhub failed to make up the difference.

Rebecca Latham, the CEO of Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails, said her council had 22,000 boxes left over at the end of the selling season in late spring, even though girls tried innovative selling methods like drive-thru booths and contact-free delivery. The impact will be felt by local councils and troops, who depend on the cookie sales to fund programming, travel, camps and other activities. The Girl Scouts normally sell around 200 million boxes of cookies per year, or around $800 million worth.

Latham said troops in her area sold 805,000 boxes of cookies last year; this year, they sold just under 600,000. That shortfall means the council may not be able to invest in infrastructure improvements at its camps or fill some staff positions, she said. “This is unfortunate, but given this is a girl-driven program and the majority of cookies are sold in-person, it was to be expected,” said Kelly Parisi, a spokeswoman for Girl Scouts of the USA.

“Without girls, there is no cookie program. Unfortunately, it took a global pandemic to bring all the problems to the surface,” said Agenia Clark, president and CEO of Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee, a local council. Clark and some other local leaders were able to avert a cookie stockpile because they calculated their own sales projections instead of relying on guidance from the national office. Clark believes a new technology platform adopted by the Girl Scouts isn’t adequately forecasting membership declines and their impact. In April, she sued the Girl Scouts of the USA because she doesn’t want to her council to be forced to use that platform. But the glut of cookies has laid bare some simmering issues within the Girl Scouts’ ranks. Some local leaders say this year’s slower sales should have been better predicted because falling membership was threatening cookie sales even before the pandemic began. Around 1.7 million girls were enrolled in Girl Scouts in 2019, down almost 30% from 2009.

It’s unclear how much of a financial hit the Girl Scouts suffered because of the decline in sales since the organization won’t reveal those figures. And it isn’t the biggest blow the cookie program has ever faced. That likely came during World War II, when the Girl Scouts were forced to shift from selling cookies to calendars because of wartime shortages of sugar, butter and flour. As a result, around 15 million boxes of cookies were left over as the cookie season wound down. Most — around 12 million boxes — remain with the two bakers, Louisville, Kentucky-based Little Brownie Bakers and Brownsburg, Indiana-based ABC Bakers. Another 3 million boxes are in the hands of the Girl Scout councils, which are scrambling to sell or donate them. The cookies have a 12-month shelf life.

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