Funeral service. . . . .by the numbers

Funeral Director Daily published this article last week that we titled “We saw a lot of deaths in 2020”.  The article tried to put a number to the number of death care cases across the United States in our Covid-19 pandemic year.  We came up with the number of 3,427,321 which was a 20% increase in the number of deaths from 2019 — 2,854,838.

That article captured my interest on other numbers, or data, which may be of interest to death care professionals.  For instance, what percentage of death calls do the national public companies claim each year or what is the average number of deaths per funeral home in the United States?

Well, Funeral Director Daily spent some time looking up available numbers that relate to our profession to give you an idea of where the numbers lie.  And, it is truly an idea because nothing is constant. . . the numbers are moving even as we read this article.  Also, some of the numbers are from different years. . . .for instance, the latest idea of number of funeral homes in the United States comes from the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) and is a number reflective of the year 2019, yet some of our death numbers are reflective of 2020.  So, we caution you, these numbers are approximate estimations of somewhere in time, although they may indicate trends.

  • From the Service Corporation International (SCI) financial reports we can find what they call “Funeral Services Performed”.  In 2019 they reported that number as 319,616 and in 2020 they reported that number as 364,312.  That would give SCI an approximate market share – using the U.S. death numbers for 2019 and 2020 as related above – a market share of deaths of 11.2% in 2019 and 10.6% in 2020.
  • Using that same rationale for Carriage Services, they reported in this report, “Total Funeral Contracts”, which we believe includes cremation services, of 36,288 in 2019 and 44,924 in 2020.  Those numbers, extrapolated the same way we did for SCI, would indicate that Carriage Services has a market share of U.S. deaths in both 2019 and 2020 of about 1.3%.

The other public companies, Park Lawn Corporation and StoneMor, don’t necessarily list numbers of cases in their reports, and in the case of Park Lawn Corporation, many of their services are Canadian based, which would skew the numbers.

  • For simplicity sake, let’s assume that Park Lawn and StoneMor each hold a 1% share of the United States death care market.  If so, that would bring the public company share of the U.S. death care market to 14-16% of all services.  Add in those private national and regional consolidators that have over 15 rooftops in their portfolio and you probably have a market share of all consolidators, private and public, of about 20% of all deaths.  That leaves probably close to 80% of the market share in American deaths to the smaller family owned operators.
  • Moving on to funeral home numbers.  The NFDA states in this report that the number of funeral homes in the United States as of 2019 was 19,136.  They also note that in 2009, ten years earlier, there was 20,577 funeral homes.  That’s a decrease of 7% in the past ten years.
  • Also, the same information points out that less than 50%, or 41.5% to be closer, of the funeral homes do over 150 cases in annual volume.  That leaves 58.5% of all U.S. funeral homes doing less than 150 cases in any given year.
  • The NFDA states that their average member firm averages 113 cases per year.  Using our data of 19,136 funeral homes (2019 number) which included both NFDA members and non-members and the number of 2020 deaths – 3,427,321 – that would give an average case number per funeral home of 179 cases.

Anyway, lots of numbers, lots of data, and many ways you can look at extrapolting the results.  I thought this was kind of an interesting exercise – I hope you enjoyed it.

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