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British Funeral Trends Mirror U.S. or Vice-Versa

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I recently read an article in the United Kingdom’s newspaper, The Sun, which centered on the topic of British citizens cutting back where they can on funeral expenses.  Quite frankly, as I read the article, it really reminded me of what has been, and is still, occurring in the United States as to what, I believe, is the consumer thought process on death care purchases.

The Sun article pointed out that, where possible, British consumers are cutting back.  “Where possible”  includes such things as flowers, embalming,  and even the type and quality of a casket when a family chooses earth burial.  Interestingly enough, the article states that total costs of a service in England have risen 4.7% to E4,078/case (equal to $ 5,382 US ).  That number is quite similar to a publicly available survey of U.S. prices which includes about 150,000 services that showed an average price of $5,051.

The Sun article also pointed out the following trends in England which I believe could also be argued to be trends in America and cause for concern as the death care industry moves forward.

  • 1 in 6 (17%) in Great Britain would prefer a Direct Cremation
  • 1 in 12 (8%) in Great Britain would prefer a Green Burial
  • Only 1 in 10 (10%) services was “Religious” with most opting for a “Celebration of Life”
  • Only 46% believe that they have enough money to pay for a service
  • 10% Were unable to pay for services or changed their service plans because they could not afford ti.

Funeral Director Daily take:  This is a very interesting article to look at and then take a look in a mirror and say, “why is this happening?”  The answer to that question — “Why do people now pay less?” – probably has many answers, but in a strictly marketing point of view — you must consider the idea that when paying for the services – many must have felt underwhelmed with what they received for the price paid.

It is also interesting to note, from the same study I mentioned above, that smaller rural firms in the U.S. received more revenue per service than the big city peers.  More likely than not caused by two factors — 1) Less cremation in the rural areas and 2) It is probable that large city client families do more price comparisons and are drawn to a large provider by price point.  If #2 is true, then we can see a future where prices continue to erode as client families will be searching out those low-priced firms and more cases will be done by them.  Maybe even some that will be taken out of the rural area.

So, where am I going with this?  I would say that it is turning out that as we move forward in the death care industry, the trend is pretty solid, and looking like it will continue, that consumers worldwide will ask for “Less” when it comes to services.  We can conjecture why this is so. . . however at the end of the day it is probably the reality.  Moving forward we then have to ask ourselves – “How do I prepare my business to continue to make a profit from this trend?”  The answer lies in planning.  Funeral homes are high cost in terms of fixed costs (facilities and salaries) and low cost in terms of variable costs.  That answer will come from figuring out how to control those fixed costs so that, even at a lower price point, you can be profitable.

If you operate a funeral home and your forte is service and not being real business like, my suggestion is to get a consultant on your side to understand this dilemma as you move forward.  Service very likely will draw client families, but not having the right mix of prices and options could possibly just as easily drive them away.

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