Chicago Funeral Firms Closing

Over the weekend I read a very interesting article that was posted to Chicago Business.  The contents of the article will come as no surprise to you — it is about the difficulty of funeral homes retaining margins and call volume and closing because of not being able to do that.

One of the funeral homes in the article, Ewald-Barlock Funeral Home, has been a fixture of the Lincoln Park community since 1900 — 117 years.  Louis Barlock, the proprietor for the past half-century is set to close the funeral home soon.  Lincoln Park once had 14 mortuaries — when Ewald-Barlock closes, the community will have none.

The problem is not just with the many smaller volume funeral homes.  Many of the funeral homes that are surviving have been real profit challenged.  For instance, the A.A. Rayner and Sons Mortuary on the South Side, founded in 1948 – does about 1000 services annually.  However, co-owner Charles Childs states that revenue has been stagnant and expenses keep going up.

Childs may be one of the lucky ones. William Anderson sold his  Anderson Funeral Home in Humboldt Park in 2013.  His income – by that time – had fell to about 50% of what his net profit was in the 1980s.

Funeral Director Daily take:  This is a very interesting article.  One of the things that strikes me when reading it is remembering back to when I came out of mortuary college in 1980.  We were told that there were “too many” existing funeral homes to profitably serve the clientele over the next 20-30 years.  We were also told that those that figure out how to drive business to their mortuary will continue in business and those that don’t get that figured out – and just stay status quo – will be gone.

Well, it looks like it took a little bit longer than the 20 years but I believe those words have rang true.  Many funeral directors were more caretakers than business people and the larger firms have taken advantage of that to win market share.  There is nothing wrong with being a “caretaker” of families — matter of fact, it is a very noble ideal.  However, just as many other businesses in America have changed, so has funeral service.  Today’s families are not necessarily looking for “caretakers”.  They are looking for businesses that provide the services that they want at a price point that they are willing to pay.  One funeral director in the article mentions that 62% of his services are now cremation — can he provide that at a price point that his traditional consumers will accept or will he lose those families to a death care provider with a different business model?  The answer to that question will be vital in his business decisions.

Nobody is right and nobody is wrong in this situation.  However, this article is a great article to read and then understand that as we move forward in our business, we too, must look to always tweak our existing business model.  Maybe we won’t be in the “funeral business” anymore, but someone will be in the “death care” business.  Why not you?  Think about what it will take to keep your business up with all of the options in death care — funerals, cremations, alkaline hydrolysis, green services, and possibly even ecolation – so that you can continue to serve – and care for – families into the future.[wpforms id=”436″ title=”true” description=”true”]


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1 Comment

  1. Jeff on January 16, 2023 at 2:52 pm

    I’m curious to know if people that pre-paid their funeral expenses.
    What happen’s if funeral homes closes and out of business?
    Have these people lost their money toward their final wishes?

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