Tough Economy Means Some Girl Scout Cookies Could Disappear

girl scout cookiesEach year as sure as the first signs of spring, Girl Scouts gather, troops are rallied and cookie season begins anew -- this year, however, a down economy is changing the way the girls in green go about their $714 million-dollar-business.

The biggest news: not all of the cookies will be returning. According to the Wall Street Journall, a dozen Girl Scout councils will be experimenting with a Super Six Program in 2011 aimed at cutting costs and increasing profits. These troops will be pedaling only the top six, best-selling cookies: Thin Mints, Do-Si-Dos, Trefoils, Samoas (aka Caramel deLites), Tagalongs (aka Peanut Butter Patties) and Lemon Chalet Cremes. It's a proven, all-star lineup and if it pans out, under-performing cookies stand a good chance of being cut -- permanently.Lovers of the Dulce de Leche, Thank U Berry Munch, All Abouts, and sugar-free Chocolate Chip cookies, you've been warned. Stock up now or forever hold your peace.

In addition to streamlining product mix, the long reach of the recession has also forced the organization to think more broadly about business practices overall.

Modern-day Scouts know they'll need more than a sweet smile and nice manners (although that never hurts) to sell a $4 box of cookies. Think: business cards (really!), sales seminars or "cookie colleges," marketing plans, and online marketing and advertising. Thin Mint fan on Facebook? Tweet that! Door to door, no more.

The gloves are off, and Girl Scouts are fighting to keep pace.

The Wall Street Journal reports that by focusing on savvy business practices, "The Scouts have been able to reverse a six-year decline in cookie sales of about 1% every year until last year, when profits rose from $700 million to $714 million."

To facilitate increased understanding and sharpened skill, the organization provides parents and leaders with materials including: 411 on Online Product Marketing, The 5 Skills -Shaping Your Girl's Future, Coaching your Budding Businesswoman, The 5 Skills and Leadership Outcomes, and Practical Tips for Parents.

For some scouts, these formative lessons will last a lifetime.

"I have no doubt my top sellers will become very successful business women someday," said Chicago-based troop leader Kim Lasden in an interview with WalletPop, "These girls could teach Wall Street a thing or two."

Chairwoman and CEO Barbara Krumsiek of the Calvert Group investment firm said she credits cookie sales as one of the reasons she is successful managing $14 billion in assets today. "I have to credit two early experiences," said Krumsiek, "One is Girl Scouts ... It was a huge part of my life growing up in Queens. It was an opportunity to learn selling through Girl Scout cookies. I always vied for the top selling awards." Smart cookie.

Personally, I'll be doing my part, eating Thin Mints with a clear conscience on behalf of the future leaders of America. I've already ordered three boxes and the Scouts in my neighborhood are just warming up. Today, cookie sales, tomorrow global business leaders. Go, girls, go. That's quite a return on investment.

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