The 2021 Girl Scout Cookie season is underway, and while the pandemic has meant a scaled back selling season so far, traditional cookie booths can still be expected.
“Traditionally, cookie booths have been the most popular way for girls to sell cookies, but we have seen a significant increase across the country in people buying online and having them delivered,” said Sandy Hubbell, product operations manager with Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians. “Online cookie sales have been an option for several years, but in the past it’s not really been a popular option.”
Girl Scouts use a Digital Cookie platform for making and tracking sales. Individual girls each have their own profile with a link they or their parents can provide to customers, and a new feature this year also allows them to create a troop website.
Of the eight local Girl Scout troops participating in cookie sales, only DeBusk-based Troop 200 has created a site for the whole troop. Troop leader Victoria Perry said no orders had been placed on that site yet, but girls are using their individual sites, and the sales contribute to the troops’ goals either way.
“They have been selling online on their own cookie websites, and they’ve been doing really well with that,” Perry said.
“I think there has just been a lot more people putting things out on Facebook, which has been done in the past, too, especially by older girls or parents who are well connected in social media,” said Jennifer Ottinger, who serves as service unit cookie manager and troop leader for Troop 464 of Nolachuckey and South Greene.
Girl Scouts have been accepting cookie pre-orders since January, and are now preparing to deliver those orders.
“For the most part we’re doing porch drops,” said Perry. “Our troop has been selling to people they know, mainly family and friends, and a lot is left up to parents to decide how they want to do it, but that is what we’re recommending.”
Hubbell said girls turned to online sales and began doing the porch drops after most of the cookie booths scheduled for 2020 were canceled because of the pandemic, forcing Girl Scouts to improvise.
“We typically see most of the cookies sales during the month of March through the cookie booths, and last March most of our Girl Scouts went into stay-at-home orders about a week after we started booth sales,” Hubbell said. “We only got to do about a week of it last year before we were shutting down, so we extended the season and started doing only online sales and porch drops.”
The porch drops allowed cookie sales to continue in a pandemic-safe, no-contact format.
Perry said the most major impact of the pandemic on this year’s cookie season has been reduced sales compared to this point in the season normally.
“The biggest difference so far has been that our sales are way down, which obviously has a lot to do with COVID,” Perry said. “We have had some people who, instead of buying boxes or donating some, have asked if they can just give our troop a donation instead.”
Perry said those donations are much appreciated but not entirely outside of the norm.
“It’s not just my troop getting donations, and at booths sometimes someone will offer a donation instead of buying cookies, or they say ‘keep the change,’” Perry said.
Despite a relatively slower start to the selling season, and fewer booths than normal scheduled so far, Girl Scouts are looking forward to in-person cookie booths, starting at the end of the month.
“We do still have cookie booths this year, but there are a lot fewer of them than usual for very understandable reasons,” Hubbell said. “Some companies have opted not to host this year, which we understand.”
A full list of scheduled cookie booths can be viewed through a “find cookies” function on the official Girl Scouts and Council of the Southern Appalachians website.
Booths begin Feb. 26 and will run through March 21. Some of the local spots already scheduled include Hobby Lobby, Lowes and O’Reilly Auto Parts.
Booths scheduled at Sleep Solutions, 2130 E. Andrew Johnson Highway will be drive through, Ottinger said.
The list is updated as booths are confirmed, and businesses can still request to host a booth or drive-through on the same webpage as the “find cookies” tool.
From there, users can also order a shipment of cookies from the Girl Scout Outreach Program, which helps fund Girl Scout troops and activities in underserved communities, or donate cookies to service organizations and military service members.
A search function also retrieves local troops with a troop Digital Cookie page.
“If someone wants to support a troop they can’t find online, they can call our office and we can connect them to a local troop,” said Meri Furst, relationship manager with the Council of the Southern Appalachians.
The Johnson City Service Center can be reached at 800-474-1912.
Furst added that Girl Scouts is always recruiting and accepting new members. Many recruitment events are currently virtual, including events on Thursday, as well as Feb. 23 and 25. There is also a beginners hiking workshop at Persimmons Ridge Park in Jonesborough on Feb. 28.
For more information about the events or to register, email firstname.lastname@example.org or text or call 865-973-7033.