Published: February 23, 2010
Updated: February 23, 2010
(Courtesy of the Richmond Times Dispatch)
Less than two weeks after Martin’s Food Markets told the Girl Scouts and other organizations that they could no longer set up shop outside Ukrop’s grocery stores, other area businesses are clamoring to let the groups know that they are welcome.
Food Lion LLC, The Kroger Co., Virginia Center Commons and Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market are among the business that reached out to the Girl Scouts to let them know they can set up shop to hawk cookies.
The offers are both altruistic and a way to capitalize on a situation, said Janice Williams, vice president of marketing and communications for the Girl Scout Commonwealth Council of Virginia.
“There is a little bit of seizing the moment,” she said of the offer. “But we are grateful and thankful that they’ve made all this space available.”
The Girl Scouts organization oversees operations in 30 counties and six cities in central Virginia. In all, it has about 16,000 members.
Williams said about 10,000 girls would be selling cookies.
The offers for sales space began pouring in after word got out that the Martin’s wouldn’t allow the Girl Scouts to set up outside stores. Martin’s, which acquired 25 stores from Ukrop’s Super Markets Inc. on Feb. 8, said its corporatewide policy does not allow such sales.
“Once we became aware of the Richmond situation, we reached out to the troops in this area to assist them in providing additional locations to sell cookies,” said Christy Phillips-Brown, a spokeswoman for North Carolina-based Food Lion.
Carl York, a spokesman for Cincinnati-based Kroger, said he reached out to the Girl Scouts to let them know the company could work to accommodate troops displaced by Martin’s decision.
“We had a couple of conversations to let them know that we’d be open to them,” York said.
Both already allowed Girl Scouts to sell outside their stores but said they will work to fit in more troops.
In the next week or so, the council will place a list of available space on its Web site.
Martin’s announcement upset many parents and shoppers who said the Girl Scouts depend on sales at grocery stores to help raise money for activities and operations.
Martin’s said the decision was based on feedback from shoppers who don’t want to be solicited as they enter stores.
A Martin’s spokeswoman said in an e-mail that the company would not change its stance, even if only to accommodate the Girl Scouts who had plans to sell at Ukrop’s this year.
“The policy will not change,” said Tracy Pawelski.
That stance, even if it upsets some loyal Ukrop’s shoppers, may not be entirely harmful to the chain.
“I’m not sure that making Martin’s stores off limits to the Girl Scouts and other fundraising groups is a mistake,” said David Urban, a professor of marketing and interim business school dean at Virginia Commonwealth University — and the father of a former Girl Scout.
He believes that Martin’s can support the community in other ways, and that some consumers prefer to shop without being disturbed.
“They might never admit it publicly,” Urban said, “but deep down, they would just as soon not have to say no to a child selling a product who is standing out in front of the grocery store.”