If you were worried the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may put a cramp in your Girl Scout cookie style this season, you can relax. Local troops are ready to sell – they just had to get a little creative.
“We’re cautiously optimistic, just simply due to the popularity of the program and the iconic nature of the Girl Scout cookie. We still have high hopes,” said Aimee Boucher, co-leader of Daisy Troop 61468 out of West Deptford. “Our troop goal is to hit the same sales figures that we did last year pre-pandemic.”
The novel coronavirus put the kibosh on indoor cookie sales, so Girl Scouts won’t be peddling their tasty treats from booths inside grocery stores and businesses this year. They will, however, be utilizing virtual means, as well as socially-responsible in-person options, to sell cookies.
“Certainly we have to adapt to the realities of COVID,” said Ginny Hill, CEO of Girl Scouts of Central & Southern New Jersey (GSCSNJ).
The entrepreneurial program for girls – the largest of its kind in the country – is looking at operating realities and adaptations businesses have faced in the past year to make its own changes. Hill, who is also a member of the Girl Scouts national cookie steering committee, explained these changes include contactless transactions and new web-based technology.
“In years prior, the way somebody who is jonesing for their Thin Mint can find Girl Scout cookies, they would know a Girl Scout or they encounter a Girl Scout at a grocery store,” Hill said. “This year, we developed a new technology.”
Beginning Feb. 1, the Digital Cookie platform enables users to order cookies delivered direct to their door by entering their zip code in the Girl Scout Cookie Finder. (Find the GSCSNJ online at www.gscsnj.org.) Every troop participates in this program and benefits from the incremental sales.
Hill said it’s been a matter of taking a broad view of the national program and figuring out how to adapt it locally in a way that makes sense, so girls will still get the learning outcomes the cookie program provides in business strategy, financial literacy, communication skills and more.
Boucher, who runs Troop 61468 with Jody Hauck, understands the importance of developing these life skills. Just before cookie season kicked off on Jan. 14, her troop got together for their first live virtual meeting. They taste tested this year’s new cookie (Toast-Yay!, a French toast-inspired treat dipped in icing) and, with help from one of the troop moms, had an age-appropriate lesson in finance.
Last year, Boucher observed firsthand how running a cookie booth helps with her girls’ self confidence, ability to answer questions and general manners – especially when someone declined a cookie purchase.
“A lot of these skills really translate to different experiences that they’re going to have throughout their youth and adulthood,” Boucher said. “Everything is referential.”
The troop leaders are doing their best to ensure their young charges still build upon this skill set, even if those in-person interactions are a bit different and limited.
One in-person opportunity is pop-up booths, organized lemonade-stand style in front of homes after plans are approved by the local council. The triboro troops located in Cinnaminson, Palmyra and Riverton, also came up with another unique solution for in-person selling.
“We’re tackling it with a drive-thru cookie booth at the Shoppes at Cinnaminson,” said Clareann Cook, who oversees the cookie program for the 20 triboro troops.
The booth will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday, barring poor weather, until cookie sales finish at the end of March. Signs will direct vehicles, and anyone stopping by for cookies is asked to wear a mask (sellers will be wearing them, too) and stay in their vehicle. While Girl Scouts as a whole are encouraging contactless payment with charge cards, cash is still permitted.
“We have to be prepared for everything at this point,” Cook explained. “We’re doing what we can in this crazy time.”
In addition, the triboro troops will offer a drive-thru pickup at the township buildings for virtual orders. This information will be available when ordering online.
“Right now, I’m cautiously optimistic,” Cook said. “(Girl Scout cookies) are something people always look forward to.”
Of course, at the end of the day, nothing beats the selling method that has served Girl Scouts well for many years – word of mouth.
“When you’ve been in Scouts as long as we have, people are asking us when cookies come out. There’s already a history of clients there. Neighbors already know,” said Colleen “Coco” Mivelaz, who leads Troop 30674 with Girl Scouts from Cherry Hill, Haddonfield and Merchantville.
Mivelaz added the community will still find cookies in their “normal hiding spots,” such as Springdale Farms in Cherry Hill when it reopens for the season in March, as well as other area businesses.
“This is definitely a challenge for the girls,” she said.
Despite the challenge, however, optimism prevails.
“Especially in times like we’re in, I think Girl Scout cookies bring joy, not only to the people who eat them, but to the girls who participate in the program,” Hill said. “Will it be challenging for them and harder and is it different? Absolutely. But No. 1 and most important to me is that the girls are safe, that they’re not taking unnecessary risks. At the end of the day, their health and welfare is most important, and we want them to have fun.
“We’re just pleased as a movement that we’ve been able to come together and really reimagine the program and redesign the safety protocols,” Hill continued, “to make sure we can honor both of those things.”
What’s your favorite Girl Scout cookie? This year’s menu includes the much-loved Thin Mints and Caramel Delites; the classic Shortbread, Peanut Butter Sandwich and Peanut Butter Patties; the popular Lemonades and S’mores; and new addition Toast-Yay!, which takes the place of Thanks-a-Lot, which retired after last year.