Sales are a little thin for mint and other Girl Scout cookies so far this year.
National numbers are not yet in, but regional Girl Scout councils nationwide are seeing the impact of the down economy, as well as bad winter weather, in declines as large as 19 percent in pre-order sales, which took place January through early February.
Pre-order sales -- mostly door-to-door and workplace -- make up around 70 percent of cookie sales, council leaders say. Councils are hopeful they will make up for the drop-off with sales at shopping center booths through early spring, says Michelle Tompkins, spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts of the USA.
Among the councils reporting declines:
Eastern South Carolina Council, near Charleston, shows pre-sales down 19 percent from 868,386 boxes in 2008 to about 700,000 boxes so far this year, says product sales manager Keisha Frost.
Northeast Ohio Council, near Cleveland, reports pre-sales down about 16 percent, from 2.5 million to 2.1 million boxes, says Marianne Love, director of business services.
Nation's Capital Council, in Northern Virginia, Washington and parts of Maryland, sees 5 percent fewer pre-sales, down to 3.7 million boxes, says public relations and marketing director Nancy Wood.
Frontier Council in Las Vegas sales are down 1.3 percent from 612,792 to 604,524 boxes, says development director Emily Smith.
About two-thirds of the 133 Girl Scout councils nationwide sell cookies from January through March, Tompkins says. The rest sell in the fall. Most proceeds, she says, go to troops and councils to pay for trips, community projects and scholarships.
Love said some leaders are reporting longtime customers purchasing in smaller quantities.
"If a customer was purchasing six to eight boxes, now they're purchasing three to four," she says.
Sales aren't down everywhere. Natalie Martin, director for marketing and communication at the Northeast Texas Council, near Dallas, says that council has seen a 2 percent increase in pre-sales this year. For the first time in 10 years, headquarters reduced each box size by about one ounce this year because of increased ingredient and transportation costs, says Denise Pesich, vice president of communications for Girl Scouts of the USA.
The $3.50 average cost per box has been the same for the past five years, Tompkins says.
Tompkins adds the Girl Scouts haven't dealt with salmonella-contaminated peanut products because neither of their baking companies, Little Brownie Bakers and ABC Interbake, buys from the peanut plants involved.
Pesich is optimistic booth sales will be strong.
"We're hopeful right now. The country, when in situations like this, goes back to what's nostalgic and gives them pleasure," Pesich says.