In soft economy, GJ troops work harder to close the cookie deal
“Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?”
Girl Scouts from Troop 149 asked that question hundreds of times Sunday, trying to entice shoppers loaded down with bags full of groceries leaving City Market on Rood Avenue.
As the economy soured, Girl Scouts such as 13-year-old Michaela Gorsky knew they would have to turn up the charm to sell the sweet confections.
“Thank you!” Gorsky said in a sing-song voice, waving goodbye to a customer who purchased boxes of Thin Mints and Samoas.
Gorsky kept up her cheerful demeanor even when folks avoided eye contact and shuffled past, declining her offers or saying they already had purchased Girl Scout cookies.
“It helps to be polite,” Gorsky confided, lowering her voice and leaning in toward a reporter.
Gorsky and other Girl Scouts around the valley must be doing something right. Girl Scout councils around the United States have reported varying degrees of decrease in advance sale orders, which are taken before Girl Scouts set up booths at the grocery stores of the malls. But local troops say their numbers haven’t decreased too much.
“They’ve said we’re down 30 percent nationwide (in sales), but I don’t think we’re feeling it,” Troop 149 co-leader Kim Shipard said.
Cookie prices didn’t increase locally, staying at $3.25 for a box, which may have helped a number of troops with sales. A box of the cookies costs up to $4 on the East Coast.
Local Girl Scouts are reimbursed 50 cents for every box sold, and their profit increases to 62 cents per box after each girl in the troop averages sales of more than 350 boxes. Troops generally use the money to go on camping trips or other planned vacations.
The cookie sale is the Girl Scouts’ largest fundraiser of the year, and this year’s sale ends locally after this weekend.
Troop 149 might be the area’s top cookie seller this year, its troop leaders said, thanks in part to Kim Shipard’s daughter Kylie. The year was a little rougher for the 10-year-old’s presales. Kylie sold 503 boxes this year compared to 750 boxes the previous year.
The cookie-selling season is divided into presales in January and booth sales from Feb. 13 to March 8.
What Troop 149 didn’t book as many presold cookies, the girls made up for it with long hours at booths around town. They camped out for seven hours at City Market on Saturday, selling 273 boxes. They sold at least 200 more boxes the following day. They also spent some of their weekend knocking on doors.
While the nostalgic, comforting sweets that Girl Scouts have been selling for more than 90 years practically sell themselves to loyal customers, others who are watching their wallets more closely required some prodding. Upon seeing a shopper leaving the store with milk, Gorsky quipped, “Do you need some cookies with that?”
Kim Shipard said she listened as one man said he couldn’t buy cookies because he had just lost his job.
“I felt so bad I just wanted to give him a box,” she said.
Others explained they couldn’t afford the luxury, at least until the next payday rolled around.
Angi Snyder, leader of Brownie Troop 120 from Clifton, said her girls had the most luck with preorder customers who had received handwritten thank-you cards from past sales.
“Just that little personal touch can go a long way,” she said.
Although presales were off to a slow start, the troop’s nine girls sold about 3,000 boxes in three weekends at booth sales.
Even though people are eyeing their expenses more closely, part of the allure of Girl Scout cookies is their name recognition and their limited availability, Snyder said.
“Everybody knows about Girl Scout cookies,” she said. “It’s not something you can go to the grocery store and buy at any time. People know they’re helping a good cause, and it’s not going into a big corporate pocket.”
Longtime troop leader Sylvia Lesko did not expect cookie sales to go well this year. But she said girls in four separate troops each sold a couple hundred boxes more than the previous year.
Though the economy looked bleak, folks started asking in December when they could purchase the cookies again, she said.
The girls were sold out after a good sales day downtown during the Lions Club parade.
Other troops sold cookies the morning of Valentine’s Day and had the luck of the love-themed holiday on their side.
Leader Sharmin Erskine of Girl Scout Troop 42 said customers may have initially held back from buying cookies because of a peanut butter scare. After it was determined Girl Scout cookies were not made with the tainted product, sales were robust, she said.
A poor economy doesn’t always send cookie sales crumbling, said Amanda Kalina, spokeswoman of Girl Scouts of Colorado. Sales in the year after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. were some of the group’s largest ever.
“We were in a bad place then, too,” she said. “Girl Scout cookies are a comfort food. People want their Thin Mints, and they know that they need to either get them now or they’re not going to get them.”