When I was growing up and in elementary school in the 1960’s there was a saying about Presidential elections. That saying was, “As Maine goes, so goes the nation”. What it meant was that the state of Maine had an uncanny ability to vote with the winning candidate in so many elections. In today’s left and right political world it no longer applies, but it did back in the day.
Moving ahead about 15 years to the early 1980’s I remember reading a book by John Naisbitt entitled “Megatrends – 10 trends that will shape the world”. Naisbitt suggested ten megatrends that would reshape our society. Included among them were the shift to a global economy from a national economy, the shift from a representational democracy to a participatory democracy which resulted in a two-party only system, a shift from forced technology to high tech, and a power shift in the United States from North to South which would make California, Texas, and Florida “power” states. You can see a summary of his megatrends here.
I thought of those points when reading this article from the Minneapolis Tribune on Sunday. The article is about the rapidly shifting wedding venue from church to other location. In just the last eight years wedding locations have decreased from 41% in churches to only 22% in churches. The article also relates how so many young people have no connection to a church or clergy and find a different spiritual path. The article also talks about “finding an all in one location”.
So, what does the Maine and Megatrends connection have in common with this wedding article? Well, I believe that the wedding phenomena is a bellweather of future funeral or memorial services and/or celebrations and I also believe that there are megatrends in the death care industry that will shape how business in the profession is changed. And, as the wedding industry goes in America. . . so goes the funeral industry. People who own traditional funeral homes need to be prepared for these trends or they risk being left in the dust.
Here are some megatrends that I see in the death care profession:
- Licensed funeral professionals will continue to be called on for the disposition of the remains, but retained less and less for their work or facilities in the memorial services or celebrations of the deceased.
- There will be an increase in evening, one-night events for the memorial services/celebrations. And, these events will more and more be held off of traditional funeral home premises. There are lots of reasons for this, but the major one is that cemeteries are becoming less and less involved in memorialization. In the past, you needed daytime to facilitate the cemetery experience. . . that will no longer be needed. There will be less need for for two days which would have included one night of visitation followed by the next day service.
- Direct cremation will continue to grow, but there will also be a growth in the niches of funeral service. Cremation will continue to be the number one method of disposition and I predict that alkaline hydrolysis will also pass earth burial within the next twenty years. By 2035, I would suggest that earth burial will be less than 15% of all dispositions in the United States.
- National low-cost providers of cremation, such as Neptune Society, will increase the number of dispositions that they do simply by the commodification of this service. Movement of the population with no ties to heritage providers in their new locales will drive this movement, especially in large urban markets. National brands will begin to play a bigger and bigger role in death care, especially cremation.
- A rise in the numbers of “ceremony planners” will happen in the funeral industry and, because of their relative low overhead, they will give established heritage funeral homes great competition for ceremony service revenue. My guess is that eventually branded “ceremony planners” will actually team up with low cost direct cremation providers to offer a “seamless” path to the consumer for disposition and celebration. It is conceivable that these “ceremony planners” could be major hotel chains with banquet of conference rooms for the above mentioned one night memorial/celebrations. They also will be able to provide catered food on premises.
- Just as home care agencies have entered the hospice field, I can see the day where hospice companies enter the disposition/event business. It just continues the seamless path of the consumer from home care patient to hospice patient to death care provider and finally memorialization provider. Once the “home care agency” has a captive, loyal customer it will make sense and be easy to move them along with the same company to hospice, disposition, and memorialization with the same brand.
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