CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sales in Kanawha County are down significantly this year for a traditionally hot commodity this time of year -- Girl Scout cookies.
According to Beth Casey, chief executive director of the Girl Scouts of Black Diamond, the regional council for much of West Virginia, pre-sales of cookies have totaled 8,186 cases this year -- well below the more than 13,000 cases totaled this time last year. There are 12 boxes of cookies to a case, and the loss equates to roughly $30,000 in revenue for the council's troops.
"We don't have a complete handle on why, but the Kanawha County area is down 32 percent from this time last year in the profit that the troops actually receive," Casey said Friday.
Snow, subzero temperatures and contaminated water have led to an inordinate number of missed school days this year. Pre-ordering began in January, and the chemical leak from Freedom Industries into the Elk River occurred on Jan. 9 -- one of the factors Casey said may have played a role in the dip in sales.
"We think it's to do with the amount of snow we received and the water crisis, because our kids here were in school for four days in January," she said. "January is when girls take orders from people they know, so that's when girls are taking their order cards to school and asking their teachers, taking them to church, to basketball games, and to whatever their after-school activities are, and so much of that didn't happen in January."
Casey doesn't credit an attempt by an anti-abortion group in Texas to get people to boycott Girl Scout cookies for any part of the dip in sales.
Earlier this year, the Texas group alleged the Girl Scouts supported abortion rights after social media posts about well-known women that included praise for Wendy Davis, known for her filibuster of an abortion restriction law in the Texas legislature in 2013, and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. Coordinators of the boycott also said that the organization's curriculum includes women who have expressed themselves as pro-contraception or pro-abortion rights.
Casey said she didn't believe the boycott affected Kanawha County sales, and added that the organization and the Black Diamond Council are still non-partisan entities that are geared toward helping girls develop the leadership goals necessary for success.
"I don't think that's what really going on here, to be honest; we've had a couple of people who have expressed concerns, but we were able to get back to them with some factual information about what kind of programming we're really doing," Casey said.
Another criticism the Girl Scouts have received in recent years involves the cookies themselves: most Girl Scout cookies are made with palm oil, and many environmental protection organizations have decried the use of palm oil, claiming its production unduly harms the rainforest by clearing large areas of rainforest land to grow one type of plant.
Booth sales of the cookies will begin soon, and scouts will hit the streets to sell cookies in-hand to the general public. According to Casey, the cookies sales aren't primarily about earning money for the troops, but are meant to teach responsibility and foster skills that will be useful for the girls later in life.
"The big thing about this program is that it is so much more than just the cookies," she said. "The girls are really learning important life skills by participating in the program; the entrepreneurial part of the program is the most important aspect of it for the girls.
"They're learning business skills, they practice financial responsibility, money management, sales and marketing, public speaking, goal setting, and most importantly, business ethics. Part of our Girl Scout Law is to be responsible for what you say and do, and when you learn about that and put it into practice from that business standpoint it really hits home."
Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nu...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.