So Girl Scout cookies are very big in my household. Thin Mints in particular. And they are a very big business nationally. Wikipedia says that 200 million boxes are sold per year. However, change is afoot! According to the Wall Street Journal, the Girl Scouts are testing out reducing the number varieties that are offered from eight down to six (Cookie Cutters: Girl Scouts Trim Their Lineup for Lean Times, Jan 27). As is mentioned in this video (that is mostly about the over-professionalization of Girl Scout cookie sales), the goal is to cut cost and raise revenue:
So what the fortunate six flavors? The list starts with the five most popular flavors (this is take from the Girl Scout Cookies FAQ):
25% Thin Mints
19% Samoas®/Caramel deLites®
13% Peanut Butter Patties®/Tagalongs®
11% Peanut Butter Sandwich/Do-si-dos®
The sixth flavor is Lemon Chalet Cremes. It along with the other also rans make up just 23% of total sales. The flavors getting the ax include Thank U Berry Much and Dulce de Leche.
Now is it reasonable that this will make a significant difference in the Girl Scouts’ profit?
I think that the answer to that question really depends on how individual Girl Scout troops manage their inventory. If the individual scouts went out and took orders and later made deliveries, then more flavors should increase sales. Whoever liked Thank U Berry Much could stock up just as my family piles Thin Mints into the freezer. That, however, depends on supplier capacity. If the supplier has limited capacity, greater variety could increase delay in filling orders. Indeed, speedier cookie delivery is given as one of the benefits to reducing cookie varieties.
Where there might be a real payoff is for cookies sold for immediate delivery. Think about the scouts hawking cookies outside of your local supermarket. Here the troop has to commit to an order quantity upfront and the budget for that (either in terms of upfront cash or storage space) is likely limited and does not expand with the number of variants offered. Then boxes of Dulce de Leche will squeeze out extra inventory of Thin Mints. That could well cost sales if customers have strong preferences for flavors. Here, reducing variants would increase availability of popular flavors and thus increase sales.