JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — The Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta are calling on the community to open their wallets and their mouths to help with a cookie surplus created by pandemic-depressed sales.
When annual cookie sales began in January, COVID-19 cases were surging to new peaks, and many troop leaders and their Scouts did not feel safe selling the treats in-person, Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta CEO Amy Dosik said. While sales were offered online, the warehouse still has roughly 720,000 boxes of cookies left unsold.
“We've sold a little more than two and a half million boxes this year,” Dosik said. This is a marked decline from their typical four million boxes per year average.”
Dosik said they anticipated lower sales this year, “but what we didn't anticipate was the severity of that winter spike in COVID cases. That, I think, really made many of our troops hesitant to do any sort of in-person cookie activity.”
Many troops opted out of cookie sales entirely, said Two Bridges Service Unit Director and Troop Leader Keri Michaelis. When she’s not leading her own troop of seventh-grade Girl Scouts in Johns Creek, she’s aiding other troop leaders in the area. Michaelis attributes the lack of participation to pandemic burnout.
“I think parents are overwhelmed, kids are overwhelmed, and they just didn’t want something additional to participate in if it was truly optional,” Michaelis said.
Only about 80 percent of Michaelis’ troop participated in sales this year, but they still had no trouble reaching their goal.
“I think because there was an increased demand and a decreased supply, in terms of the number of girls selling and the number of troops selling, there was a greater opportunity for more sales,” Michaelis said.
And although this year’s sales required new initiatives, Michaelis’ girls decided to view it as an exercise in creativity and business acumen.
Her daughter Nora almost tripled her sales from previous years by filling the vacuum and learned a lot in the process.
“She’s learning skills about marketing and communication and entrepreneurship as a seventh grader, and I love that for her,” Michaelis said.
The troop heeded guidance from the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta on how to do in-person booth sales safely. They used social media to get the word out, created a drive-thru cookie booth and implemented contactless delivery.
“It was really pretty easy,” Michaelis said. “I’m very proud of how we all pivoted in a pandemic to still keep cookie sales going. So much of what we do, we rely on cookie season financially, so to just opt-out entirely was not something we wanted to do.”
Money from cookie sales stays local and is, “the biggest source of powering girl adventures,” Dosik said.
At the troop level, the money goes toward funding merit badges, camps and service projects. At the council level, funds provide Scouts in need with financial assistance and camp upkeep.
For Michaelis’ troop, money generated through cookie season is being saved for a trip to Washington D.C. that was postponed due to COVID-19.
Dosik and the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta still hope to sell the remaining boxes through their online platform: showmethecookies.com.
“I think especially in this pandemic year, Girl Scouting has been an essential lifeline for girls to keep them academically engaged and socially connected,” Dosik said.
Selling the remaining cookies in their warehouse is imperative for continuing their work in the community, Dosik said.
For Michaelis and her troop, overcoming the hurdles of selling cookies in a pandemic served as an important learning experience.
“I think there are things we’ve learned from this that we will carry forward,” Michaelis said.