IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Why $3 million in unsold Girl Scouts cookies are just sitting in Atlanta warehouse

Local troops had to get creative this year and switch to virtual sales and drive-through pop-up shops.
/ Source: TODAY

There's a warehouse in Georgia that's currently home to nearly $3 million worth of Girl Scout cookies, and it's a sweet tooth's paradise. But for local Girl Scouts, the massive display of boxes is just another reminder that this year's cookie-selling season didn't exactly pan out the way they had hoped it would.

Under normal circumstances, Metro Atlanta Girl Scouts would have set up shop at local malls and grocery stores to sell their delicious wares. But living through a pandemic has been anything but normal, and Girl Scouts had to pivot to a mostly virtual selling model this year. Without all that foot traffic they typically generate at local hotspots, their sales have suffered as a result, and they still have 720,000 unsold boxes.

"While online cookie sales in our local area on Girl Scouts’ Digital Cookie platform were up nearly 150% over last year, online sales didn’t make up for significantly lower door-to-door and cookie booth sales, which were negatively impacted by COVID-19," Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta Communications Advisor Leslie Gilliam told TODAY Food.

The Atlanta troop recently extended this year's cookie season through the end of April to give their girls some more time to sell all those leftover boxes, and customers in the Atlanta area can visit the website to place an order.

"We are asking area businesses and other organizations to consider buying by the case for employees, customers, or for donations to teachers, first responders or any other group they want to support," she said.

Local Girl Scouts in Atlanta got creative and hosted drive-thru cookie pop-up shops this season.
Local Girl Scouts in Atlanta got creative and hosted drive-thru cookie pop-up shops this season.Michele Samuel / Troop 14665 Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta

The nearly 720,000 boxes of cookies don't expire until September (and can be frozen), so there's still time for cookie lovers to buy and enjoy them, but with warmer weather coming soon, local Girl Scouts are in a time crunch against hot temperatures in the warehouse, which can affect the quality of the cookies.

"We hope our community will rally to support our girls and take these off our hands before summer," said Gilliam.

So, what happens to the leftover boxes that aren't sold by then? Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta will send cookies to their military partners in the U.S. and overseas.

"We also donate cookies to first responders, schools, homeless shelters and food pantries. Our goal is to sell these cookies, but if we don't they will not go to waste. You have our Girl Scout promise for that," she said.

The drive-thru shops were a safe, socially distant way to drum up sales during a unique season where in-person selling was difficult.
The drive-thru shops were a safe, socially distant way to drum up sales during a unique season where in-person selling was difficult. Michele Samuel / Troop 14665 Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta

On Tuesday, the local troop got some great news when DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond revealed that the county would be buying around 20,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies from local troops.

“This is not simply about buying Girl Scout cookies,” he said in a news release reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “This is about investing in the future of young girls in DeKalb County. Without the cookie program, many girls from low-income households could not afford to participate in Girl Scouts. Every box sold gives a girl a greater opportunity to lead and succeed.”

Competing cookie brand Toll House also stepped up to the plate on Tuesday and committed to purchasing 1,000 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies (they'll all be donated to the local Atlanta community!).

A cookie season like no other

Girl Scouts in the Atlanta area aren't alone in their quest to sell boxes of cookies that were left at the end of a unique season. A Girl Scouts USA spokesperson told TODAY that it's a widespread reality for many troops across the country.

"While Girl Scout Cookie season 2021 hasn’t ended yet and will continue into May in some markets, we can share that 2021 sales have been down nationally from years past. This is largely due to the fact that, historically, the majority of cookie sales come from girls selling in-person vs digital - whether that be a physical booth, selling cookies at a family member’s workplace, or going door-to-door in the community," they wrote in an email.

Troops across the country have been focused on the safety of their members and this cookie season posed a series of challenges that made in-person sales rather difficult.

"Nevertheless, the barriers inspired us all to get really creative, which is exactly what the girls did. There are many examples of the ways that girls devised creative, socially distant, and contact-free ways to keep themselves and their customers safe, including drive-through and virtual cookie booths on social media," the spokesperson continued.

The organization also teamed up with Grubhub to provide girls another way to facilitate contact-free cookie orders.

The proceeds from each box of cookies stays local and benefits Girl Scout troops across the country, so the current cookie conundrum is about more than just unsold boxes.

"Girl Scout councils use the earnings to deliver life-changing programming to 1.7 million girls across the country, and girls decide how to use their portion of the earnings for a range of experiences—from adventure-packed camping and canoeing, to exploring space science and designing robots, to taking meaningful action to improve their communities," said the spokesperson.