Arianna Zipf and Bria Hines

Do costumes increase cookie sales? You’ll have to ask Arianna Zipf. Pictured with her is Bria Hines at their Walmart cookie booth.

It may have been a year of unplanned circumstances, but there is one thing you can count on — Girl Scout cookies. It's time to feed your cookie craving while supporting young entrepreneurs.

While everyone can look forward to their favorites such as Thin Mints, Samoas and Tagalongs, new this year is Toast-Ya. It's a French toast-inspired cookie dipped in icing and full of flavor. And in case you're a S'mores fan, buy plenty because this is the last year this sweet treat will be offered.

Despite restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are a variety of ways to buy cookies this year during the selling period through April 2. Options include online and in-person sales. According to Sarah Smith, service manager for Hutchinson, all the girls have access to participate in online sales.

Girls Scout cookies

Fans of Girl Scout cookies can purchase their usual favorites, such as thin mints, or try something different like the new French toast-inspired Toast-Ya cookies.

“The girls can send emails to their friends and families to either direct ship to them or choose girl delivered,” she said. “The girls can also share their special link on their parents' social media pages. We also have contactless payment options for ordering at booths. We have a QR code that customers scan with their phone then enter in their credit card information.”

Smith has been a troop leader and service unit manager for three years. Prior to that, she volunteered. She was familiar with Girl Scouts as she was a member while growing up in Lester Prairie. She became more involved when her daughter, Abby, expressed interest in joining.

SALES TIPS FROM SUPER SELLERS

If you enjoy buying your cookies directly from a Girl Scout, you're in luck because they will be selling door to door as well as at Walmart, Cash Wise and Goodwill. See sidebar for schedule.

In 2019, the Hutchinson Service Unit, which included seven troops and 50 girls, sold 12,772 packages of cookies. In 2020, eight troops and 51 girls sold 12,715 packages — not bad considering last year's sale was cut short by two weeks.

The 2020 top sellers were:

  • Annabelle Luthens, 984 boxes
  • Brayanna Pingree, 852 boxes
  • Lily Eggert, 700 boxes
  • Abigail Smith, 542 boxes
  • Ruby Hoff, 455 boxes

Luthens was No. 1 in local cookie sales in 2020. She credits her success to using all the selling options the Girls Scouts give them: business to business, door to door, online, family, friends, school and cookie booths.

The Park Elementary fifth-grader's sales strategy this year is based on experience: “I will sell the same way this year as I did last year,” she said. “Last year my goal was 550 and I ended up selling 1,000. This year, I kept my goal at 550 because I wasn't sure how COVID would affect everything.”

One change the pandemic has brought is Girl Scouts are now accepting credit card payments without having a fee charged back to the troop. They will also be following COVID health guidelines such as wearing masks and social distancing.

The best part of selling cookies is the opportunity to spend the money. Luthens said her troop is working on their bronze award to turn an area of Girl Scout Park into a butterfly garden. They also are planning a fun field trip if COVID allows.

Abby Smith, a fourth-grader at Park Elementary who placed fourth in 2020, has set an ambitious goal this year: 850 boxes of cookies. She set the bar high because she needs to sell at least 550 boxes to pay for camp, plus she chose 825 packages for the prize she can earn from the council — a frozen dessert maker.

When it comes to sales strategy, Smith is sticking with the tried and true. 

Girl Scouts Abby Smith, Jennifer Hilgemann and Ruby Hoff

Welcoming smiles attract cookie sales for Girl Scouts Abby Smith, Jennifer Hilgemann and Ruby Hoff.

"I try to go to every house in my neighborhood the first two weeks of the sale," she said. "I look back at my records from the last year and contact the customers to see if they would like to purchase cookies again. I also try to work as many cookie booths as possible."

An added incentive for Smith and her troop members is their after-sales plans, which include paying for camp and a troop event that includes a visit to a water park and a pizza party.

Ruby Hoff placed fifth in 2020 cookie sales. She expects to do more door-to-door sales this year to meet her personal goal of selling 550 boxes.

The Park Elementary fourth-grader said due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she'll be wearing a mask and all cookie booths will be outdoors. As far as spending the money they raise, Hoff said they aren't sure yet what their future plans will be.

HOW THE COOKIE CRUMBLES

Cookies cost $5 per box. According to Smith, 22%, about $1 per box, of the money earned goes toward troop proceeds and rewards; 54% goes to the council and is invested in the girls through programs, properties, volunteer support and training, financial assistance and council services; and 24% goes towards the Girl Scout cookie program and baker costs.

Troops use their portion of the money earned to pay for supplies for meetings and the badges that the girls earned. Each troop also has a reward event where the girls choose activities such as going to the Hutchinson Aquatic Center, Minnesota Zoo, Paint Factory and so on.

"The leaders let the girls decide what they would like to do and then we give them a goal to sell so we make sure we can afford the activity," Sarah Smith said. "Some girls use the money to go to Girl Scout Camp in the summer. I have eight girls in my troop that are registered to go to camp this summer. They are very excited to go since last year’s camp was canceled."

A total of 49 girls are enrolled in Girl Scouts, ranging from kindergarten to ninth grade. Hopefully, this year's cookie sale will be different from 2020.

“In March, our cookies season came to an abrupt halt due to COVID,” Smith said. “The girls were disappointed that they could not keep selling to hit their goals. We also had to figure out what to do with all the unsold cookies.

"Girl Scout River Valleys Council decided to have us donate the unsold cookies to places around our community," she continued. "Some of the places that were chosen were Harmony River Living Center, Ecumen Oaks & Pines, Hutchinson Health and the staff at Hutchinson Public Schools.”

The pandemic also impacted meetings. Smith said they had to adapt. For instance, when school was in distance learning, the troops met via Zoom virtual meetings.

“The Girl Scout River Valleys Council purchased a Zoom license for each troop in the council,” she said. “I know most of our troops just resumed having our in-person meetings within the last few weeks.”

Marcella Ross & Annabelle Luthens

Local Girl Scouts are selling cookies at Walmart, Cash Wise and Goodwill in Hutchinson. See sidebar for schedule. Pictured are Marcella Ross and Annabelle Luthens promoting cookie sales at Walmart.