Business

Is pet death care the new cremation?

A couple of things happened on Thursday (yesterday) that put the idea for this article in my mind.  First of all, I was involved in a brain-storming session that centered partly on how to reduce tuition costs for college students.  And then, later in the afternoon I was watching the business channel, CNBC, as I was on the treadmill running in air conditioned comfort  — it was 88 degrees and humid yesterday in Minnesota so that is why I was in the house rather than pounding the pavement outside.

It was a combination of those two events that brought me to the above title.  First of all, at the brain-storming session we discussed “What actually is sacred about a 4-year college degree?”  Could we do it in three years which would immediately cut 25% off the price of undergraduate college costs?  Many states allow some high school credits to count against college credits needed to graduate. . . . could we enhance that program so that students we admit could take some of the required courses on-line during the summers preceding college entrance to get that first year of pre-requisites out of the way with no tuition costs?

Anyway, regardless of what we were discussing my thought was, “things change”.  Things that seem really unusual and new today we eventually look at as the “norm”.  Will we look at 3-year college degrees as the “norm” in the future?  If you have been in the funeral business as long as I have you now look at cremation with the perspective that it has become the new “norm”.

When I was at mortuary school, 1977-1980, the cremation rate in Minnesota was about 5-10% and most of us thought the newly opened Cremation Society of Minnesota would be a flash in the pan. . . .Well, it is 40 years later and there are many death care businesses in Minnesota that look back and wish that they had the foresight that the Cremation Society did.  Learning how to operate a crematory was not even a part of the curriculum . . it was all about embalming and funerals.

The second event of the day that really hit me was watching some of the companies report revenues and earnings on CNBC as I was running.  The big event of the day in that regard was the report on Microsoft. . . they exceeded revenues and earnings.  And, while everyone likes to hear what is happening with the big companies, it was a short report by the company Chewy.  . you hear their television ads for Chewy. com. . .that made me start thinking.

So, Chewy is a company based on consumers purchasing pet products.  They became a public company only about three months ago and reported their first revenue numbers yesterday.  Here is what I find amazing. . . they reported sales revenues of about $1.1 billion for the past three months.  On an annualized basis that would equal about $4.4 billion in sales yearly.  The largest business in America in the death care industry, Service Corporation International (SCI) reported yearly sales revenue of only $3.1 billion for the 2018 year. . . and they have been in business over 50 years.

I think that the amount of money spent on pets tells you a little bit of how Americans have latched on to the humanization of our pets and the opportunities out there to profit from something that makes sense in the “pet business”.  So, what will the “norm” be when these pets pass away in the future?  From my point of view, just as many of us did not take real serious the thought of cremation as a mainstream way of death disposition in the 1970’s, I wonder if we are taking that same viewpoint on pet death care 50 years later?

I think it may behoove a funeral establishment to look into the idea of expanding their expertise in death care to pets in the future. . . I’ve done some researching and here is a web-site from Schoedinger Pets that I find to be very professional.  The Schoedinger family, to my knowledge,  is the leading funeral care provider in the Columbus, Ohio market and they have went “all-in” on pet death care.

At any rate, I hope I gave you something to think about over the weekend.  Have a great weekend! . . . and don’t forget to walk the dog!!!

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