Viva Las Vegas!!!!. . . Impressions from the NFDA convention floor



I recently returned from Las Vegas where I spent a couple of days attending seminars, walking the Convention Expo floor, and just catching up with old friends.  For me, “Vegas” is a fun place to go — for about two days — and then I’m glad to be back in “dull” but beautiful Minnesota!!


When I was a child — this is going back over 50 years — I attended many a state convention in Minneapolis with my parents.  Some things haven’t changed since that time such as Batesville  and Wilbert being “bigger than average” exhibitors, but a lot of things have changed. . . even with those companies.  It’s no longer Batesville “Casket” and Wilbert “Vault” — they are both suppliers of other products now in addition to their heritage products of caskets and vaults.


Here’s a few things that I thought interesting with the convention expo floor and my visits with many suppliers and funeral directors I met on it.


Director to Consumer (DTC) business is growing —  I cannot tell you how many smaller expo exhibitors’ booths that there were that not only seem happy in selling wholesale to the death care retail industry but also are willing to sell Direct to the Consumer as another mode of sales.


Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

I generally found these companies in the seemingly growing cremation keepsake business and the business of selling cremation urns.  Those products are easily sold online and have easy shipping because of their smaller sizes.  However, even larger death care products are finding a way to be sold DTC online in this growing (among death care) movement.  In a talk with Josh Siegel of DTC casket company Titan Casket, I learned that they are growing and expanding warehouse space also.  (By the way, Titan Casket also offers a program for funeral homes to buy their products wholesale and you can learn about that here.)


For those people that want to plan their own memorial services I also noticed a more aggressive DTC movement in online obituary placements.  It seems that USA Today has joined leader in that regard.  Finally, some of these companies have even instituted an AI (Artificial Intelligence) format to help consumers write obituaries without the help of professional funeral staff.


The “Options” movement in Death Care —  It’s no longer about burial or cremation.  I saw several booths dealing with alkaline hydrolysis or green burials.  There seems to be a lot of money being poured into getting the public to buy into those options and I’m guessing that will mean more dispositions will eventually go that way.


It’s interesting, and I’ll devote a column to this maybe later this week, but even though I see a lot of money being poured into these “alternative” disposition methods, I don’t see a “wholistic movement” of the public out screaming for these services.  It’s my opinion that the public will make use of these dispositions when and where they are available, but I think it will be a rather slow growing process.


In contrast to that, and you may find this hard to fathom. . . . but, I do see a “motivated wholistic movement” by a passionate group of people to the “Natural Organic Reduction” movement.  That is the “human composting” element of dispositions.  Interestingly enough, I didn’t notice booths on the expo floor about this movement but I will touch on it in a later column.  In general, however, I see more of a groundswell movement for this process than either alkaline hydrolysis or green burials.


An enlarged or enhanced trend for getting Social Media to drive your brand —  I think it is only common sense to know that in a period of growing expenses and lessening revenue per case that you have to grow your business to move forward.  And, from what I saw on the expo floor it appears that death care has pretty much given up on newspapers, church advertising, and radio as the mediums that will do that.


It appears to me that the trend is now to be “self-assertive” of telling your story via social media.  It makes sense that the more knowledgeable a potential consumer is about your business, the more apt they are to select it when that business is needed in their life.


It also appears to me that many, maybe most, of the marketing mediums in the death care business believe that the proper way to tell your story is through regular posts on social media.


Intervening early in potential clients’ lives will pay dividends — This is a reference not only to the social media aspect, but the idea of getting pre-arrangements done at an earlier age.  I think that there is increased competition among the financial world of preneed products — both banking and insurance based — and finding out how to “put away” those finances for a later day is getting more and more difficult for the consumer as their current living expenses have gone up due to inflation.  More difficult for the consumer will also make the sale of such products more difficult for the death care provider


I also think that the “smart” consumer will be looking much more closely at the growth rates of the products offered them moving forward — especially if is is not a “guaranteed funded funeral”.  We’ve lived for two decades with low interest rates but now certificate of deposit rates have exceeded 5.25% in some areas — more than doubling some preneed growth rates.


And, even if it is a “guranteed funeral price” for the consumer, I think the smart funeral homes that are guaranteeing those prices will be looking for higher growth rates from their preneed suppliers — or they really run the risk of being “upside down” at the time of the funeral/cremation service being executed.


So, that’s my first look and report to our readers on what I observed in Las Vegas at the NFDA Conventon and Expo.  I’ve got at least two more columns in mind — one concerning interesting products and another about the seminars I attended and what I heard from presenters.  Stay tuned.


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1 Comment

  1. Mark Thomas on September 18, 2023 at 5:45 pm

    Great reporting thanks Tom- most informative following your valued opinion mate.

    Mark T.

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