Cemetery, Preneed, Products

Report: Headstone market hot

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An interesting monument in my hometown cemetery

A big part of our mission at Funeral Director Daily is to look around the death care industry and report what we see happening in the profession back to our fellow funeral directors.  Our thought is that those fellow funeral directors were much like I was in my 35 year front-line funeral service career — that is, too busy dealing with the day to day activities of what is going on in their own funeral homes to be constantly looking around at what is happening elsewhere.

As a front-line funeral director you know it takes 110% of your time and effort to please those families who have entrusted the care of their loved one to you.  And, I think that time and effort on families is where you should be putting that effort.  So, we are happy to report to you what we see happening elsewhere and in a three-minute daily read you can keep up with the world of funeral service.

Today we bring you this three-minute radio broadcast and print article from National Public Radio (NPR).  It’s a short story with a small sampling size, mainly the United States Northeast, but it tells the anecdotal story that cemetery headstones sales have seemed to surge in those areas.  The reporter interviews three people with business interests in cemetery headstones and they all seem to say that the market is hot.

That seems to conflict with what Matthews International, if not the largest then one of the largest monument dealers in the United States, reported in their 1st Quarter 2021 report back in January.  While it could have changed in the last three months, they talked about “pent up” memorial demand based on the fact that there were so many Covid deaths, but families have not been able to get out to select their monument choices.  Here is the Funeral Director Daily report on Matthews 1Q2021.

Here are some exerts from the NPR report:

Mark Gherardi (Vermont headstone manufacturer):  “It’s extremely busy, busier than I’ve seen in the last 40 years.”

Chris Kubas (Elberton Granite Association):  Kubas believes that people have extra money from the pandemic shutdowns and are using some of it to get that headstone that they have delayed for grandparents, parents, or even themselves.  He says he has seen an uptick in “preneed headstone sales” during the pandemic.

Julie Grimaldi (Staten Island, New York retail monument sales):  She says she is seeing preneed sales up 30% and says, “I even see young people coming in.”

Funeral Director Daily take:  While listening to and then reading the NPR transcript I thought of something I had never thought of in my time as a funeral director and owner/operator of a death care business.  That is, “What would happen if you led your preneed seminars and appointments with monument, headstone, or columbarium memorialization choices?

Would that precept of selecting one lead to more permanent memorial placement for our cremation customers?  It’s a question worth pondering as there are many in our industry, somewhat led by Jay Dodds of Park Lawn Corporation, who believe that permanent placement of remains is not only in the best interest of the client family, but also in the best interest of the death care provider that serves that family.

As a matter of fact, some believe so strongly, that without permanent placement for memorialization becoming more widespread, the funeral home profession, as we know it, could disappear.

I know that most of the pre-arrangements I did in my career started with the questions of if the client preferred cremation or burial.  If the choice was cremation the thought process of permanent memorialization virtually was gone before we started the discussion.  However, if we start with the type of monument they want, we then can backtrack into cemetery and type of services.

I’ve told you this before, but my dad died when I was a teenager.  That was 44 years ago and I am so grateful for his burial with a permanent marker at our local cemetery.  I still connect with my dad and have a place of remembrance to go to on his birthday, Father’s Day, Memorial Day and the like.

Getting permanent memorialization for families who don’t think they need it might be doing them a favor that they don’t even know about.  Maybe talking headstones up front is a way to do so.

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