Monday, February 7, 2011

Super Six a Business Hit

The Atlantic has an article detailing Girl Scouts new pilot program that will try to increase profits by doing the unthinkable: slashing its cookie offerings. Derek Thompson reports that the great cookie cutting of 2011 is part of an ongoing efficiency campaign at Girl Scouts to consolidate membership and boost profit at a time when youth organizations are struggling to keep all their girls and sell some of their cookies.

"For decades, councils were left with large inventories for cookies outside the most popular five or six," said Amanda Hamaker, manager of product sales. "Councils saw this pilot as a way to experiment with their consumers to see if they could sell the same number of cookies with fewer varieties." Some media reports have tried to link the cookie cut to the credit crunch, arguing that Girl Scouts overextended their offering of sweets during the boom times only to be crushed by the recession. That's not exactly right. Girl Scouts faced a slow erosion predating the housing bubble, like many youth organizations competing against online communities. In some ways, Facebook has replaced the campfire as a place to gather around with your best buds and share your feelings.

The article delves deeper in stating that executives can be surprisingly direct about the business side of Girl Scout cookies. "We teach the girls about supply chain issues and the need for efficiencies," said Denise Pesich, vice president of communications. If that sounds like a first-year business school lecture, then don't be surprised that the organization uses professional sales consultants to teach their pre-teens how to mix precious smiles with canny nudging.

Late last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that to cut costs and delivery times, a dozen Girl Scouts council are testing a plan to sell only the six most popular cookies that make up more than three-quarters of sales. If you haven't already done so, check out the fun interactive game provided by the Wall Street Journal! What are your thoughts on the "Super Six" pilot program?