SNL:  Why Aren’t Girl Scout Cookies Sold in Stores?

Discussion
Apr 27, 2010

By Tom Ryan

Last week’s episode of Saturday Night Live questioned the whole selling model of Girl Scout Cookies. With the highly covered product only being available for sale for a few months out of the year and through an unconventional distribution method, the show asked, "Why aren’t they sold in stores?"

 

In the Weekend Update portion of the broadcast, John Mulaney, one of the show’s writers, began his rant by confessing that he was "very excited about Girl Scout Cookie season. I like them so very, very much."

Then he added, "But there’s something that’s always bothered me about Girl Scout Cookies. Why can’t you just buy them in a supermarket? Why are they only available once a year through some weird organization? It’d be like if they only sold Coca-Cola in July and you could only buy it from the Knights of Columbus. Girl Scout Cookies are delicious. They come in thin mint and Samoas and also…other flavors. How come I have to know a child in a beret in order to get them? Just sell me the cookies. You know what I mean? I have American money. Just put them in a store and I’ll buy them."

He further lamented on the limited timeframe for selling the cookies.

"Have some pride in yourself Girl Scout Cookies! You are much more than just the once a year type of thing. You are not candy canes, and you are certainly not the McRib. We don’t need to you leave town for most of the year. You are delicious cookies."

Finally, he raved about the quality and distinctness of the product and questioned the distribution model.

"Do the people who actually make the thin mints realize that they have a best seller on their hands? How long is this exclusive sales contract going to last where they only sell the cookies through a weird child army in tablecloth dresses? You know, according to the Girl Scouts’ website, you cannot buy Girl Scout Cookies online. Do you know what you can buy online? Everything. You can buy everything online."

So in conclusion, Girl Scouts I don’t mean to get on your case but you should take it as a bad sign that in your entire 93-year history no one has copied your business model. No one has said, "You know how we should sell our product? A bunch of little girls in sashes and then everyone can buy them from them as long as they work in the same office as one of their moms."

According to the website for the Girl Scouts of the USA, most of the selling activities take place between January and April, but some occur as early as September.

Discussion Questions: Is the Girl Scout Cookies selling model antiquated? Should the cookies be sold in stores?

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25 Comments on "SNL:  Why Aren’t Girl Scout Cookies Sold in Stores?"


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Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
11 years 21 days ago

Let’s cut the Girl Scout’s cookie selling program a little slack. They are just trying to get a little experience in raising some money. It’s a little like kids selling lemonade in the summer. Yes the girls should try to sell cookies year round and inside stores. Perhaps there is some marketing expert reading this column who will assist the Girl Scouts pro bono in casting off the 93-year-old shackles.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
11 years 21 days ago

The Saturday Night skit focused on the product (Girl Scout cookies) and not the process. The object of the business model is not just to sell cookies, but to teach the girls involved several lessons as pointed out on their web page. (While tempting, I won’t do a cut and paste of the learnings that are involved.)

The money raised stays in the local area rather than going to the national organization and then being redistributed to the local groups. This avoids all the issues surrounding why some groups got more than others, etc.

The business model isn’t broken, it just involves more than ensuring the cookies are available. Perhaps their scarcity makes them all the sweeter – remember when Coors and Krispy Kreme were only available in limited areas?

Warren Thayer
Guest
11 years 21 days ago

Steven Montgomery has it totally correcto. Besides, from what I heard, neither the girls nor the den mothers can afford slotting.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
11 years 21 days ago

From a purely economic point of view, the model has never made any sense. Whether it’s effective in teaching kids anything is another matter entirely and depends on your point of view. Personally, I found having to hawk light bulbs, magazines, newspapers, etc. as a kid pretty terrifying, but maybe it helped me learn about the world. And, back then, the kids knocked on doors alone, without Mom and Dad to back them up.

David Livingston
Guest
11 years 21 days ago

I think the whole Girl Scout cookie model needs to be reformatted. I was at the supermarket recently and Girl Scout cookies were being sold near the store’s entrance. Not by Girl Scouts but by two beautiful women dressed for selling. Even I almost bought some. It’s been a long time since I was actually approached by a Girl Scout selling cookies. Seems the moms are the ones doing the selling, bringing in sign-up sheets to work, church, etc.

In the end, they are just cookies. There is nothing remarkable about them. My gut feel is if they are sold in stores, they will eventually end up in the dollar stores and lose their appeal. There are already cheap knock-offs similar to Girl Scout cookies sold in stores. Putting the cookies in stores would end a long tradition of fund raising and lessen the exposure of Girl Scouts in the community. A lot of girls get their first exposure to Scouts by seeing the other girls selling cookies.

Ian Percy
Guest
11 years 21 days ago

We have a famous place here in Scottsdale called Greasewood Flat. It’s an outdoor hamburger dive in a field of old junk and a herd of burros. It’s literally across the street from the gorgeous and very expensive Four Seasons. Very limited menu and a sign that says if you complain about the service you won’t be served at all. Many a tourist has suggested that the owners “fix it up” and “make it more efficient.” Of course we know the moment someone does that is the moment the place folds.

The moment GG cookies can be found anywhere at any time is the moment they’ll cease to exist. And we’d never talk about them again. Right now the availability of GG cookies is a cultural event, the product sells out every year and kids have an experience they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.

And someone thinks the current business model doesn’t make economic sense?

Christopher P. Ramey
Guest
11 years 21 days ago

Desire drives revenue and margins. Girl Scout cookies are more delicious and valuable because I can’t buy them any time I want them. Not too dissimilar to the desire of millions for a Chick-fil-A sandwich on Sunday.

The cookies are an excellent opportunity for young girls to learn to compete, as well as how to sell. It’s also a great team building exercise. Re: the mom’s selling the cookies at the office; they were Girl Scouts once too….

Jesse Rooney
Guest
Jesse Rooney
11 years 21 days ago
Mr. Montgomery is right. The point of Girl Scout Cookies is not the oh-so delicious cookies which we crave and look forward all year, swearing we will this year put two boxes of Thin Mints in the freezer to save for later only to devour our entire order in a weekend. Instead, Girl Scout Cookies are all about the Girl Scouts. Selling the cookies via large retailers doesn’t serve the Scouts in the same way as their traditional direct marketing does. The Girl Scout cookie-selling model helps young women develop a large number of skills. The model teaches the Scouts about team-building; being assertive and confident when cold selling; managing their inventory, orders, and customers; and the joy that comes from providing a well-made, desirable product. What would the Scouts learn if the supermarket sold their cookies? How to manage TPRs and handle SKU rationalization? Those are valuable skills for us as retail professionals but are distant from the core mission of scouting. What’s more, the seasonal aspect of Girl Scout Cookies make them desirable… Read more »
Gene Detroyer
Guest
11 years 21 days ago

1. And why would the Girl Scouts want to share their margin with retailers?

2. And how many people would buy the girl scout cookies if they were not presented the opportunity by a cute girl scout?

The Girl Scouts have this right. This is about raising money, not about being in the cookie business.

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
11 years 21 days ago

I’d be willing to bet that increasing availability would diminish sales–they wouldn’t be special any more, they’d just be a good cookie along with lots of other good cookies.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
11 years 21 days ago

I agree with most of the above comments. Steven Montgomery’s struck me as close to my sentiments.

The young girls are being taught basic selling and marketing skills with their method of distribution and sales. Let them keep doing what they have been successfully doing for so many years. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Just because SNL does a skit does not mean the world has to change, does it?

Selling the cookies in stores may generate more overall sales; but the attraction of the girls selling them once a year will be lost. We do not need to lose it.

Eliott Olson
Guest
Eliott Olson
11 years 21 days ago

A pox be upon the store that tries to sell generic Girl Scout Cookies. I have a standing order with my granddaughter.

Janet Dorenkott
Guest
Janet Dorenkott
11 years 21 days ago

Steve has it right and I also agree with David, that the cookies would lose their appeal over time if they were sold anywhere and anytime. It is a good lesson for the girls and when it’s cookie season, I always see the girls with a couple Mom’s supervising (unlike David’s mom’s, the ones at our stores are typically frumpy and wearing jeans or sweats).

Let’s not forget, this is also a fund raising activity. What would happen to their profit margins if the retailers got hold of those cookies? Entertainment books used to be sold only by schools and sports teams trying to raise money. Now you can buy them for 30% less online.

Benjamin Smith
Guest
Benjamin Smith
11 years 21 days ago

The Girl Scout’s leverage is their limited availability and exclusivity. I sympathize with Chris Ramey’s Chick-fil-A example on that point. In terms of limited time retail offerings, I’m not sure which came first–the McRib or Girl Scout Cookies–but regardless, when they are available, people know they must act now.

I thought I had a gotcha by recalling seeing Girl Scout Cookie flavored ice cream from Edy’s/Dreyer’s at my local Kroger, and I was going to point it out as a year-round retail offering. To my disappointment even their ice cream is only available for a limited time period also, similar to the cookies.

Girl Scouts Thin Mint Cookies in Chocolate Mint Ice Cream. Natrual and Artificial flavor added. AVAILABLE: (Jan-Apr)

On a related note–maybe the Boy Scouts can get some leverage by offering their popcorn at retail, year-round. Then again, would anybody even care?

James Tenser
Guest
11 years 21 days ago

I enjoyed John Mullaney’s SNL rant well enough, but my “insider” knowledge of the harsh realities of supermarket direct store distribution made me laugh a bit less. Too bad my innocence is lost–let’s not take it from the Girl Scouts any sooner than necessary.

Michael Rockafellow
Guest
Michael Rockafellow
11 years 21 days ago

Steven Montgomery has it right. If the program was just about the cookies, they would be sold in a store. They would just be another cookie in a few years. It is about the GIRL SCOUTS.

Brian Kelly
Guest
11 years 21 days ago

Girl Scout Cookies–the brand is not the cookie. The brand is the experience. Take away the current purchase experience with all it entails and you are left with something no one will want.

Hang in there GSUSA, you are tougher than most and remember, “Retail ain’t for sissies.”

David Schulz
Guest
David Schulz
11 years 21 days ago

If it is only about raising money, the Girl Scouts of the USA can licenses its name to some cookie maker (and why not shoes, apparel, tween cosmetics, and anything else the comes along?) and then raise funds in a national appeal not unlike those made by public radio and television stations.

Brian Legate
Guest
Brian Legate
11 years 21 days ago

+1 for Steven Montgomery’s comment.

The girls learn a thing or two with regards to marketing, fund raising, confidence in selling, etc. Stocking cookies in the store would dilute a tradition of selling cookies door to door (or at stands in a stores) that has been in place for numerous years. I’ve helped sell this for the last 4 years and most people ‘light up’ with enthusiasm when the time comes to purchase. If you have not ever had to assist in such a function you won’t understand it until you do (i.e. the benefits of kids participating this in function).

In any case, I don’t think the GS organization needs to product in the stores anyway. They are successful with the current model with regards to revenue. In addition, selling the product outside of the store model keeps the product unique.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
11 years 21 days ago

I lost faith in SNL’s business reporting after they blew the LTCM (near) meltdown in the late 90s. Anyway, as noted here, controlled distribution is major part of GSUSA Cookies’ brand; expanding it to stores would be like offering Christmas trees year round: too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing.

I would like to build on an observation David offered though, and suggest that what America needs is an expansion of the concept: perhaps Chippendale Scones and Playmate Mints…. I would definitely be willing to give the latter a try.

Mark Burr
Guest
11 years 21 days ago
We all love the Girl Scouts outside the supermarket, but why not inside? There’s no value to the inside. Six bucks for a couple of cookies? Come on! It’s never been about the cookies–never. It’s all about teaching Mom and Dad how to beat the bucks out of their neighbors, friends and co-workers. All the while the kiddies look cute in their green and sashes. All in good fun–right? It’s never been the cookies. Okay, those peanut butter things maybe. But, what it’s really about is doing something good. Wholesome. Worthwhile. That’s why. It’s all good. The minute we forget what it’s really all about we’re in trouble. But then again, maybe we already are. Nah, I’m openin’ those peanut butter things as soon as I get home. It’s all good. Forget all the rest. Buy a few, give them away if you don’t like them. But buy them. You’ll feel better. Good. Nothing wrong with feeling good about making our kids lives just a little better. Now, for those peanut butter things!
S. Chris Rodriguez
Guest
S. Chris Rodriguez
11 years 21 days ago

But I can tell you that Girl Scout Cookies are not sold in stores because the girls would miss out on the learning about responsibility and learning how to work with each other and their community. They would also miss out on being part of such an amazing opportunity to develop courage, confidence and character. I hope Girl Scout Cookies are never sold in stores!

The world is full of companies reaching for bigger and better ways to move their product. We need to keep Girl Scouts a part of the community and not something so overly accessible that being a part of it becomes less special.

Stacey Silliman
Guest
Stacey Silliman
11 years 20 days ago

As a former Girl Scout, I can thank my parents for selling my Girl Scout cookies. In today’s world, I wouldn’t allow my child to go door-to-door anymore. It’s not safe…sorry but it’s not. And plenty of parents feel the same way because in my office we see the order forms posted outside of mom & dad’s cubicle walls!

The parents have to sell these things, not the kids. The kids couldn’t care less. There is no lesson learned. It’s an old, tired business model. And regarding the quality of the cookies–well, they have decreased in quality. They wouldn’t sell in the supermarket so maybe the idea of selling during a limited time is the ticket. People want what they cannot have.

John Crossman
Guest
John Crossman
11 years 17 days ago

For me, the bottom-line is that I want Thin Mints year round.

John Crossman
Guest
John Crossman
11 years 17 days ago

Good for SNL to do this skit as it brings attention to the Girl Scouts.

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