Will the “re-opening” of America move the needle on funeral home revenue?

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Last week has had a lot of COVID world firsts for me.  Let’s see, I left my county for the first time since March, albeit about one block south of the county line to attend a hybrid graduation party.  I also ate inside a restaurant on Wednesday for the first time since March when one of my friends and I went to one of our 25% capacity restaurants for lunch.  And, on Friday I participated in a Zoom meeting where we put our plans for re-opening the University of Minnesota for classes come Fall to public scrutiny.

Everybody has viewpoints on what to do — whether backed by science or not.  At the University of Minnesota we will be opening dormitories but not having congregate dining.  At present, all dining will be take out from the cafeterias.  As a matter of fact, probably the biggest issue that I have heard about is whether or not it should be mandatory to wear masks on campus.  For the record, at this time, that requirement is not featured in the opening protocols.

So, as your state opens, what will happen with funeral services?  This video story and article from Fox News 6 out of Milwaukee visits with funeral directors from Feerick Funeral Home in Shorewood, Wisconsin, who seem excited that funeral services will now have a new lease on life in Wisconsin.  The article seems to point to the fact that because of no visitations and funerals, revenues are suffering at a 30% clip.

And, that is not the first place we have heard these numbers turning south during the COVID period.  We have heard it from Park Lawn Interim CEO Brad Green and from Service Corporation International CEO Tom Ryan.  We’ve also heard it from private family owned firms’ management.  At least one family owned funeral home mentioned that there revenue was down 40% per case.

If a number as big as 40% in revenue losses is even close to the truth, then funeral homes have really been hit in the profitable operations of their businesses.  It’s my guess that the “re-opening” of America just can’t come soon enough for the profession.

Now that we see this “re-opening” on the horizon, what does that mean for funeral homes?  It should mean increased revenues because client families can now have visitations and funerals where all the friends and relatives may be able to attend.  That should bring back the lost revenue.

But, what if families learned during the last three months that they believe that they can get by without those services?  There may be some that feel that way and may in the future continue to have minimal services at the time of death.  It would also be interesting to know, and I’m guessing we will as statistics come out over time, what the cremation rate during March, April, and May was compared to the rate of the same period of one year ago.  My guess is that it will be a higher number, and it may be substantially higher caused, at least in part, by the idea that families could not mourn their loved ones in the way they preferred.

I’m ready, within a safety circle, to get back to normal.  I know that funeral homes are ready to get back to normal, although that normal will be a “Next Normal” in the progression of business systems and dynamics.  I’m guessing that the “Next Normal” for funeral homes will be increased costs of safety to protect both employees and consumers and more and different ways of relating to consumer families such as technological with Zoom and FaceTime.

It will be interesting to see what the “Next Normal” is for consumers of death care goods and services.  It will be that consumer choice of their “Next Normal” that may be the key piece in how funeral home profits and losses are tallied.

One thing is for sure, those businesses who can predict and adopt to the consumers’ “Next Normal” will be winners in the long run.

Here is the website of Feerick Funeral Home.

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