Girl Scouts Are Prepared to Grab Market Share

Discussion
Feb 15, 2012

The Girl Scouts are taking their “Be prepared” motto to heart with some recent steps designed to help the group drive incremental sales of its famous cookies and other merchandise.

According to a Pioneer Press report, the Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys are opening a pop-up store in the Mall of America to sell cookies and other group merchandise such as earrings and mugs. Sales will be handled by individual troops while the location remains open.

“We haven’t done this before, and we’re doing it to help raise our profile” Sara Danzinger, a spokesperson for the group, told the Pioneer Press.

A pop-up store isn’t the only thing the Girl Scouts are doing to build sales. A recent report by the Los Angeles Times found that 32 troops in 23 different states are making use of smartphone technology to read credit cards and remove one of the greatest impediments to the group’s sales.

“Now every time someone says, ‘Oh, I don’t have cash’ or ‘I don’t have a check,’ we’ve got you!” Kenya Yarbrough, director of marketing for Girl Scouts Greater L.A., told the Times.

Discussion Questions: Are the Girl Scouts moving into places where they could become a more significant competitor to retailers and cookie manufacturers? How would you expect retailers and manufacturers to react should the Girl Scouts capture greater share of the cookie category?

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16 Comments on "Girl Scouts Are Prepared to Grab Market Share"


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Dick Seesel
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

I’m not sure whether the new Girl Scouts tactics really threaten the market share of major food retailers, but it is good to see a nonprofit thinking “outside the Thin Mints box” about updating its selling techniques. Most of the methods described in the article (accepting credit cards, mall kiosks) are not exactly new developments but could be rolled out to other regions. The next challenge is to develop e-commerce as well as tactics to sell cookies and other products during the holiday season, not just during the spring.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
10 years 3 months ago

Girl Scout cookies are a nominal threat to mainstream cookie manufacturers, and the worst thing manufacturers could do is respond in any way. Taking on a non-profit or even looking as if you might is a no-win proposition.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

The Girl Scouts sell about $750M of cookies, so it is not a small business now. The steps being taken by the Girl Scouts should help increase their sales, especially taking credit cards. But I don’t expect the impact to be so large that it will make them a more significant competitor, primarily because their local distribution is limited to a short period of time each year.

Ed Dunn
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

This is the most exciting news I heard in retailing this year! This is a wonderful teaching opportunity for Girl Scouts to learn how to run a retail store and learn the details such as inventory management and promotions.

Maybe these Girl Scouts can get an entrepreneur patch for their efforts and become inspired to be future job creators for this nation. I hope more Girl Scout chapters pick up on this pop-up store implementation, considering all the vacant spaces at the mall.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
10 years 3 months ago

The early-blooming guile of the female competitor breaks forth in today’s technologically savvy Girl Scouts. Now there are no boundaries for Girl Scouts, save for the time limits in the program, and they have the potential to be competitive boutique retailers.

What do I expect retailers and manufacturers to do should Girl Scouts grab a greater share of the cookie category and possible others? Go to Washington for help in building barriers to such new competition.

But that’s not the right approach. Integration is.

Warren Thayer
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

I’m in line with Richard, Al and Steve on this. Will also expand the experience the kids get, and be good all around. Of course, the next step would be having them call on buyers and negotiate slotting, endcaps and market development funds, but I don’t think I’m in favor of that.

Carlos Arámbula
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

As long as the Girl Scout Cookies remain a seasonal and limited-time-only offer, they will not be competition to cookie manufacturers.

As a parent of two girl scouts and husband to a troop leader, I’ve experienced how the economy has made the door to door sales more difficult. Households that used to purchase over 10 boxes at a time are purchasing one box because they are being cautious with their expendable funds. Impulse purchases from booth sales have taken on a very important role because they can complete the fundraising goals for the troops, so the ability to reach more shoppers and facilitate their purchase is critical.

It’s not an issue of capturing greater share of the cookie category, rather an issue of maintaining the necessary share that makes cookie sales a viable fundraising tool.

Lee Peterson
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

I have three daughters, so I’m intimately aware of the power of GS cookies. I’m amazed, and always have been, at the logic behind GS cookies NOT being into retail for the past 50 years: there is none! Even my daughters say, “Gee, could you imagine if you could get these all year round?” Yeah, I can certainly imagine the millions and millions of dollars that could go to their organization — but are NOT.

There must be a good reason they don’t have stores or just plain make them available online all the time, but I’ve never heard it. I can think of one, but I’ll be nice; my daughters may read this.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

GS cookies have been available all year on store shelves in many areas. The value of the packages makes it more of a charitable contribution than a formidable competitor to traditional brands. Also, how different are these cookies from Newman’s Own Brand, with their donation program?

Mel Kleiman
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

This is moving the Girl Scouts into the world of today and is teaching them the skills they need to succeed in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace. The more public awareness the Girl Scouts get, the better off we all are.

Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
10 years 3 months ago
I’m a mother of a Girl Scout — a Brownie, technically. While I appreciate the learning opportunities, and definitely appreciate the difficulty of selling door to door these days, especially in CO in January, I also am a little put off by some of the more cut-throat aspects of carving up the cookie franchise. In front of grocery stores, it’s controlled and managed — troops sign up for slots and work their shifts. But to make any money for your troop these days you’ve got to go out and hard-sell restaurants to make desserts with Thin Mints or set up at the train station to flag down commuters. And if you tread on another troop’s territory? At least around here, it can get pretty scary. Six- and seven-year olds get left in the dust, and since so much of a troop’s activities depend on the money they raise from selling cookies, it’s a lot of pressure on the girls, which I don’t like. I’d actually welcome grocery stores selling the cookies and adopting troops to… Read more »
Mark Burr
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

Since few retailers actually teach retailing, berets off to the Girl Scouts for doing it! Smart retailers would support their efforts, join them in teaching, introduce stores within their stores during the seasonal period of the cookie drive, hire them in their teens, and develop them as future retailing leaders.

No organization is perfect. I’m not sure that the Girl Scouts are either. What they are doing here, however, is teaching things that are worthwhile for later when their green winds up in the cedar chest and they enter into the world to do what they are given to do. They will be teaching us in the future. It is the natural circle of life. Maybe they are even teaching us now.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

Cookie sales are designed to teach girls entrepreneurship and enterprise. It makes sense to give them all the tools that modern businesses have!

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
10 years 3 months ago

Frankly, what I like best about the pop-up stores is the opportunity for recruitment. “Oh, Mom! Let’s go over there and talk to the Girl Scout (hopefully this from a little girl)!” They’d better have an ample supply of pamphlets and contact information for local Girl Scout Councils and Troops. Girls need to know that the Scouts are about more than annual cookie drives.

Jason Goldberg
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

Enhanced physical presences (beyond the traditional curb-side pop-ups that GS has been using for years) makes a lot of sense; as Doc points out, it should be a major recruitment tool for them. As door-to-door selling becomes less socially acceptable, the GS have to find new ways to continue their tradition.

Since so much of GSC selling has been via personal social networks (don’t we all get solicited by our co-workers on behalf of their kids), I’m surprised to not see better digital analogies of that happening yet (I haven’t seen any Facebook or LinkedIn invites to buy cookies yet).

One area where the Girl Scouts need some marketing help is local SEO. Mrs. Fields, etc., still kill them for organic search results, despite the fact that their is a much richer link-graph for content about Girl Scout Cookies. Searching for “Girl Scout Cookies in Portland” doesn’t get many good local results, even though cookielocator.littlebrownie.com and http://www.girlscoutcookies.org/ have good database based locators.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

Why should we be this concerned about the Girl Scouts and their improved sales techniques? I applaud them for thinking creatively and stretching the boundaries of the box. My advice to retailers and manufacturers is do nothing. Let them have their market share. It is only a short selling season for them. If the retailers and manufacturers decide to compete; they will be opening a can of trouble in public opinion. Do they really want that? I doubt it.

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