Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Our Girl Scout Cookie Booth: What's Working, and What's Not

My Girl Scout troop had our second cookie booth last weekend, and all last week, my two worked hard to implement what they'd learned from our first cookie booth at Wal-mart and make some improvements.

It was decided that MORE color and MORE decoration would draw MORE attention, so working from a rainbow theme, the kids decided to pin play silks in rainbow colors to the front of the otherwise plain blue felt tablecloth:

That orange, by the way, had to be made fresh--where did our orange play silk go?!?

And there was also some hijinks involved in the construction:

The kids also noted that a Girl Scout who wasn't tied to the table could potentially entice over customers whose path wasn't carrying them right by, so I introduced them to the concept of the sandwich board. I'll have a full tutorial over at CAGW later, but in short, Will and Syd each composed a poem about Girl Scout cookies, painted them onto large pieces of cardboard, and then the Girl Scouts who manned the booth all took turns wearing it:

Seriously, how CUTE is that?!?

And here's the booth!

I love that you can really tell that it's kid-constructed, even though our troop is on the younger side. It's messier than it would be if the parents were controlling it, of course, but cookie selling is a girl-led business, after all, and it's wonderful to watch the kids visibly growing in skills during the course of the sale. One kid learned to count back change. One kid, who at the start of the booth was too shy to speak to customers, by the end of the booth was eagerly asking each one if they wanted their cookies gift-wrapped.

I also have to give props to how incredibly patient every single person who came by our booth was with the girls. One woman stood by and smiled as I demonstrated counting back change to a kid, then put everything back so that she could do it herself, then put everything back and demonstrated it again when she couldn't figure it out the first time, then put everything back and let her try again until she got it correct. Another couple let me hold a shy kid by the shoulders and prompt her with every single thing that she said so that she could get the hang of interacting with customers. More than one customer asked a kid a simple question ("Which is your favorite cookie?" or "Do you like being a Girl Scout?") and stood patiently while the kid took absolutely ages to think up the answer that she wanted to give. Not a single person acted a bit fussed to be dealing with these eager, fumbling, unsure, learning-as-they-went, clumsy kiddos.

And, of course, I'm learning as I go, too! Some things that haven't worked out so far:

  • offers of free gift wrapping, Valentine's cards, ribbon, etc. This might work if the kids used the offers to up-sell cookies, or entice customers over to our table, especially with those pre-Valentine's Day booths, but the kids in my troop are too young, and already have too much in their heads that they have to say. 
  • our stock. I don't know if our council is unusually short-supplied this year, or if this is a perennial problem, but I have not been able to get cases of cookies from them when I need them--I'm currently wavering about whether or not to cancel a cookie booth tomorrow, on account of we're out of Thin Mints and there are no more to be had. And don't even get me started with the gluten-free Toffee Tastics--they're apparently sold out nationwide! Next year, I'm going to make a much larger pre-order, and try to avoid dealing with restocking as much as possible.
  • change. MORE dollar bills! ALL THE MORE dollar bills!
  • prizes for buying five boxes. The prizes are kid-made and super-cute, and everyone is pleased when they've been told that they've earned one (most memorable prize-related moment: the five college women who came up, one woman planning to treat each of her friends to a box of cookies, who were so stinking thrilled when I told them that, due to the special circumstances, I'd let them EACH pick a prize, and who made such a happy fuss about picking their prizes, that every single kid at the booth was beaming by the time they finally completed their purchase and walked away), but again, the kids had too much to think about to market the prizes or try to up-sell the customers into them.
Some things that have worked out well:
  • the booth itself. The kids put a huge amount of effort into decorating that booth, and although I don't necessarily know that it drew in any sales, we did get loads of compliments about it, so I know that it was noticeable!
  • free samples. Another parent was in charge of this, and it definitely brought in some sales. Considering that we paid for the cookies that we gave away using money from our troop's donation box, it was well worth it. Next time, I'll suggest only offering samples of cookies that we need to sell more of--I have more boxes of Rah-Rah Raisins than I'm comfortable with this late in the season, but I'm flat-out of Thin Mints, dang it.
  • that donation box. Always have a troop donation box! Lots of people have put their change into it, and it's money that goes straight to our troop, with no required cut to our council.
  • that sandwich board. Again, I don't one hundred percent know if it brought in any sales by itself, but it definitely let people across the foyer of the grocery store know that there was a cookie booth nearby, and it gave the younger kids, especially, something to do when their brains got tired of focusing on customer service.
  • "Please buy Girl Scout cookies!" I don't know how you can sell cookies without assigning a kid to make eye contact with passers-buy and call this out. It's essential, and I think it's a great experience for the kids.
Speaking of cookies... my kids are still hoping to collect donations for Operation Cookie Drop, which gives Girl Scout cookies to our soldiers. Four dollars buys a box, although more or less is also welcome. The Paypal Donate button is at the top left of my blog. If you've already donated--thank you! You can be on the lookout for a thank-you email, written by the kids, in your email inbox one day soon, as soon as I can entice them away from sledding and balloon animals (yes, that's a thing right now) and board games and building blocks.


Tina said...

Thank you for all the awesome explaining your do about the Girl Scouts. I have not had a lot of experience with GS and had no idea how much of the kids work went into selling the cookies (of course I am sure there are troops that are way more parent led). I will for sure rethink just walking by the next GS cookie booth.

Gonna send your site out and see if I can drum up some OCD sales for you!

julie said...

Awesome, Tina--thanks!

It's also really cool to see what the kids are able to do as they get older. We've been watching a lot of troop-made videos as part of the process, and those teenagers think up some REALLy cool business ideas!