A Simpsonville-based discount grocery store was discovered selling boxes of Girl Scout Cookies in its six Upstate stores.
The problem: Girl Scouts don’t sell their cookies on the retail market.
So that led to Deal Mart, which bills itself as a salvage grocer, drawing criticism from the Girl Scouts of South Carolina – Mountains to Midlands chapter, which found out about the retail sales from a volunteer who was shopping at one of the six Deal Mart locations.
“Our girls work extremely hard on this business that is guided by volunteers,” said Karen Kelly, director of marketing and communications for Girl Scouts of South Carolina – Mountain to Midlands. “This is a highly unusual situation that we have never encountered before.”
After a brief investigation by the national Girl Scouts organization, it was found that Deal Mart came to have the boxes of cookies after ABC Bakers, the maker of the Girl Scout Cookies, donated leftover cookies to a domestic hunger relief charity. From there, they were purchased by Deal Mart.
“A purchase of cookies was part of products received last week,” Deal Mart owner Don Weaver said in a statement. “The product came from North Carolina and in no way was related to the S.C. Girl Scouts.
“It was after-market goods received directly from the manufacturer by a Christian-based wholesaler, which, in turn, sold them directly to Deal Mart along with numerous other items.”
Weaver said the stores had to sell off the cookies quickly because of their short shelf life, so they were priced for $5 per 12-pack, well below the Girl Scouts’ sales price for one box of cookies. He also said, “It is not uncommon for manufacturers to get rid of any overage or overstocked items at the end of a season.”
He added that buying deeply discounted products and offering them back to consumers at lower prices “is how stores like ours survive.” He said Deal Mart also donates food to Upstate ministries and charities, as well as to the Simpsonville Police Department, and the food is then handed out to the community.
According to Kelly, the sale of Girl Scout Cookies is not just a fundraiser for the Girl Scouts but also a way to teach girls about finance and business.
“This is not just selling a box of delicious cookies, but it is also a financial teaching tool, and you don’t want people to think they can buy cookies after the fact and at a cheaper rate, because that is not what the program is about,” Kelly said.
The Girl Scouts’ national council issued a statement reiterating that the Mountains to Midlands chapter had nothing to do with the placement of the cookies in Deal Mart stories. The national council said Deal Mart was in the process of removing the Girl Scout cookies from its shelves, though Weaver neither confirmed nor denied that in his statement.
During the cookie sale season, which recently concluded, the chapter sold approximately 1.5 million boxes of cookies — an unaudited number — according to Kelly. Local Girl Scouts also sold 20,000 boxes of cookies for military members.
Deal Mart has locations in Easley, Fountain Inn, Greenville, Mauldin, Simpsonville and West Greenville.
Reach Matthew Clark at 864-235-5677, ext. 107, or @matthewclark76 on Twitter.