Girl Scouts mobilize nationwide from January to March each year, setting up pop-up booths outside of grocery stores and subway stations to sell cookies and raise funds for their troops. The cookies are popular enough to even inspire Thin Mint-flavored coffees from major brands like Dunkin’ – but sales often hit a stumbling block at the point of sale: Many troops only accept cash.
Fewer consumers are carrying cash these days, noted Alantria Harris, senior director of product programs and retail for the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta. The cookies may be popular, but Girl Scouts can’t capitalize on that if passersby aren’t carrying a payment method they accept. Cash-only businesses present a couple of problems for the Scouts: There’s less money to be earned from today’s consumers, as well as an added security risk involved with carrying that much cash.
“At a booth sale, a troop sells about 400 boxes of cookies,” Harris said. “They’re likely walking away with about $1,600 in cash from that sale.”
During this year’s recently ended cookie season, the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta tackled these challenges by piloting an mPOS solution with nearly 400 troops, enabling them to accept cards and mobile wallets such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay via an app or portable card reader.
The Sugar Sales Rush
The Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta is currently tallying up its 2019 sales, but last year it mobilized 22,840 Scouts and sold more than four million boxes of cookies at 6,173 booths. It already looks like this year’s totals could be significantly higher. Scouts using the mPOS sold almost 30 more boxes than they did last year, Harris said, marking a 4 percent increase over 2018’s numbers.
Many Scouts used the mPOS at booths, but some also carried the devices as they went door-to-door, delivering pre-ordered cookies and collecting payments. Funds paid via the mPOS were deposited directly into troops’ bank accounts.
The handheld solution allowed the organization to monitor sales, but didn’t track as many details on inventory – a feature Harris expects will be available next year. That capability will be an asset, she added, as it will provide insights into how many of each type of cookie should be stocked at a booth.
“[That will be] very important to have,” Harris explained. “It helps us with planning sales forecasting … [including having] awareness of where sales are coming from and how much the sale is.”
Children who participate in Girl Scouts learn life and leadership skills, and receive an education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and business. The organization states that the cookie program plays a significant role in fostering entrepreneurship among members, and, according to Harris, the mPOS solution helps them keep up with new tools in an increasingly tech-reliant world.
“As we use more and more technology for everything, we definitely have to make sure that our girls are learning what is adopted and accepted now,” she said. “It’s important [to] build those 21st-century skills … in terms of learning technology.”
Preparing the Greater Atlanta chapter for mPOS adoption didn’t require much adjustment to practices and procedures, but troops and scouts were trained in how to use the devices, set up accounts and foster trust by processing the cards in full view of the customers.
With the mPOS pilot producing strong results, the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta plans to bring the solution to all of its troops next year, Harris said.
The world is becoming increasingly digital, and even youth organizations need to heed shifting payments trends. Next year, when customers in Greater Atlanta purchase their favorite cookies, they’ll notice that the way they’re paying has become a little more modern, too.