Business

The growth of the trade business

This week the Minneapolis Star Tribune did a really good piece on the role of the “Specialty” funeral director in our society.  What they referred to as the “Specialty” funeral director those of us in the industry have referred to as the “trade” service.  You can read the article here.

The basics of the article dealt with the increased number of deaths in Minnesota coupled with the fact that there has been a decrease in the number of licensed funeral directors over the past several years.  According to the article, Minnesota has about 12% less funeral director/morticians, including those licensed (like me) who do not work anymore that have to handle the 20% uptick in business volume (deaths in the state).

As the article points out, “faced with rising deaths and a shortage of funeral directors, funeral homes are increasingly leaning on morticians-for-hire . . . to remove remains while the city sleeps.”

The article points out three trade call business whose calls have risen dramatically over the last few years.

Funeral Director Daily take:  I know three of the people mentioned in the article pretty well.  It really makes the article seem down to earth for me.  When I reached age 16 (45 years ago) and received my drivers license I was every so often dispatched by my father the 135 miles or so to the O.E. Larson – Osborne Mortuary on Central Avenue in Minneapolis to bring home a human remains that had died in the Twin Cities.  Larry Osborne was the proprietor of the small urban mortuary that also specialized in helping rural funeral homes cut thru the red tape and do the removals and embalmings so they could get their deceased people back to their home towns.  Every rural funeral director in Minnesota knew Larry Osborne and counted on him for this favor.  Larry just seemed like an extension of our business, charged a pittance, and was happy to help his fellow funeral directors out.  It is just who he was – a one-man trade service and sincere gentleman.

What I found very interesting is the growth in the call numbers and level of service of the three trade services named in the article.  They all cover the same basic area of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metroplex and it is interesting to me that all three are growing by leaps and bounds and it does not appear to be the case that one is taking business from the others – they all just seem to be growing.

I scratched my head a little bit thinking about all of the mergers and acquisitions going on in our industry, especially in the funeral home and cemetery markets.  And, we all know how the cremation business is growing.  But, have you ever stopped to think that maybe the fastest growing segment of the death care profession may be the very quiet and non-public trade and livery business?

Wow!!!  What would Larry Osborne think!!!

Related:  In the “It’s a small world category” part of my duties as the Finance and Operations Chair of the University of Minnesota Board is to chair a committee called “Debt Management Committee” that does exactly what the title says, watches and advises on the University’s $1.6 billion debt load.  The committee is made up of U of Minnesota staff members and also financial experts from the private world.

At my first meeting a couple of years ago it was brought up that I had been a funeral director.  One committee member then told me that his dad had been a funeral director. . . . you guessed it.. . . his dad was Larry Osborne.  Larry, long deceased – he seemed old when I was 16 — had a son, Charles, now retired, who went on to a terrific career in the private business world serving as CFO at public companies Deluxe and Fair Isaac Corporation among other positions.

Charles still advises the Debt management Committee and we now visit whenever we can.  So many of our stories refer to our adolescent lives as funeral director’s kids!!!  What a great way to grow up!!  Have a great weekend!!

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One Comment

  1. Very good info Tom. It truly is a small world.

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