Is time up for the Undertaker?



That headline, “Is time up for the Undertaker”, is the headline from this press release issued earlier in May on behalf of Great Britain’s direct cremation provider Pure Cremation.


Pure Cremation recently conducted what they call “The Big Future of Funerals Survey” and, according to their conclusions, it points to the fact that many deaths in the future will rely on Direct Cremation without any organized service or celebration arranged by the funeral director.  In essence, they suggest that the funeral director will only be necessary for the disposition, in this case, cremation of the deceased.


The survey was completed by 17,135 Pure Cremation clients who have taken out preneed plans for a Direct Cremation with the provider.    According to the press release, ” . .a staggering 77% of those questioned said they didn’t need any professional help to arrange the celebration of life event.”


That number is quite different from what was found in the past, at least in the USA, about arranging services and leads Pure Cremation to this conclusion, as Pure Cremation’s founder Catherine Powell states in the release, “The role of the funeral director will be reduced to the performance of the essential practical tasks of caring for the deceased and logistics of unattended cremations, crematoria will find their chapel spaces increasingly used simply as the arrival hall for direct cremations. . .


The press release goes on to suggest that funeral directors, at least in Great Britain, will be facing a period of significant turbulence while they adapt to these changes.  It is also expected that some funeral homes will lower prices to compete and those reduced revenues will inevitably mean that some death care providers may be forced to close.


According to their website, which you can see here, Pure Cremation charges US$ 1,600 for Direct Cremation at need and US$2218 for guaranteed preneed Direct Cremation.


Funeral Director Daily:  I think that Pure Cremation and their survey show the correct trend with these statistics.  Yes, more people are going to have Direct Cremation as their choice of disposition, and yes, more and more people are going to do without services of remembrance arranged, organized, and conducted by funeral directors.


Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

But, do I believe that number will get to 77% anytime soon?  While it is trending upwards, I think, at least in the USA, 77% of deaths being without an organized service by the funeral home is probably a higher number than what will happen in the short haul.  However, there are event planners and even churches that are facilitating cremation memorial services without the use of funeral directors already. . . .so a higher number of those services without the help of a funeral director is certainly possible and probably inevitable.


I think that there is a low-cost direct cremation disposition alternative to a funeral home provided service in all major metropolitan areas of the U.S. already.  There is a battle-ground going on there at this time.  So much so that one metro full-service provider told me that he is creating a low-priced “off-brand” of his own to compete with these discounters.  The thought process being this “off-brand” will be able to compete price wise, but not detract from his powerful full-service funeral home brand that has been in existence for over 100 years.


A newer battle-ground, in my opinion, in the United States will be those smaller regional center cities.  As the major metro low-cost alternatives grow and seek a larger geographical footprint they will be bringing their lower-priced services into areas that have not had that low-price tier of competition before.  It’s also my opinion that many of the regional center community members would prefer their disposition, and services if wanted, performed by their local funeral home even if slightly more expensive to do so.  However, if the price-point differential gets too large, then look for the loyalty of these potential clients to switch to that low-cost provider and seek an alternative for the service or celebration event.


It’s somewhat difficult to watch for old-time funeral directors like myself, but the growth of cremation as a death care choice has rendered a funeral home’s reputation for great facilities, great people, a great location, great work in the prep room, and great community involvement away from the forefront of the consumer’s mind. . . . where now price is seen as one of the biggest, maybe the biggest, choice factor to many death care consumer families.  It’s happened and is no one’s fault, but direct cremation is now seen by many as a commodity because mourners don’t gather around the body and casket as was prevalent in years gone by.  And, I beleive, when seen as a commodity, price has a greater chance to be the selection differentiator.


It’s the road we are on and full service funeral homes and funeral directors need to recognize the need for market penetration and revenue enhancements to make sure that they can continue to profitably serve their communities.


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  1. Mark Thomas on June 2, 2023 at 8:17 pm

    Nice write up and summary Tom as always mate.

    Balanced – factual – and without fear is your style and its a breath of fresh air.

    This has been a WAR for the past 30-40 years … and akin to a freight train coming down a tunnel with lights ablaze.

    I will never forget as a National Funeral Directors Conference 25 years ago I personally witnessed a prominent Funeral Director drop a file with lots of cremation product information in it – and when offered and passed to him, …without a step, he dropped it onto the floor and STOMP on it.. lol

    Obviously an act out of fear, frustration and a protest of sorts – well here we are – not sure if he ” broke a leg ” while stomping like a brat … or if his luck has run out 🙂

  2. Beacham McDougald on June 2, 2023 at 1:59 pm

    We may call it a change in modern society, or a change by our values is not for the better.

    Now retired from over 45 years in funeral service and 72 years old, the change is clearly evident in the lives led by our 18 year old daughter and her digital generation friends: less person to person interactions and more texting. Less time spent together with others is driving the change.

    (To avoid confusion, our daughter is truly our granddaughter who has been in our care since she was less than a year old. Our late son was her father.)

    Our “Boomer” generation still loves attending social events with others; something that appears diminishing in the digital age.

    My own “final rites” plan includes a combination of the two:
    1) Cremation
    2) Memorial service in our 226 year old church
    3) Reception with food and drink
    4) eventual scattering of cremated remains in church yard with personal information recorded at the church on a permanent plaque and a marker placed on family cemetery lot.

    It is truly not surprising that the digital generation may only opt for simple disposition, but the valued social and emotional support for family and friends may one day prove their worth to a new generation.

    The pendulum always swings back!

  3. Kevin Waterston on June 2, 2023 at 8:53 am

    Reading about Pure Cremation and receiving the CANA Annual Statistics Report yesterday in the Cremationist magazine you see how times are changing. The United States now has a cremation rate of 59.0%. Our state of Minnesota had a rate of 72.7% in 2022. CANA projects our rate of cremation in Minnesota in 2032 to be 86.8%. When you break that all down only 13 calls out of 100 will be for a traditional burial. And who knows if that will have a service with it, or just a direct burial. We sold our firm to FPG in 2017 and since that time Minnesota has had one of the top ten growth rates by percentage in the country at 8.9%. Looking at the numbers I think that we sold at the right time. When we were purchased, they looked the possibility of more growth. Minnesota has given them that increase. If people are thinking of selling don’t wait too long. Look at the numbers that CANA has given us.

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