CREMATIONBY THOMAS YOUNG
Shifting the Paradigmselling premium cremation productsToday in the United States, baby boomers are by far the largest consumers of death-care services and products and, true to form, they are doing things differently. For example, as any death-care professional can relate to, funeral services today focus less on the loss of the deceased and more on celebrating the deceaseds life by reflecting on the their vocation, passions and interests. During wakes and services, dark funeral music is out; lively jazz, pop and rock music are in. Today there are actual third-party funeral planners that orchestrate upbeat funeral ceremonies while coordinating with traditional funeral home staff. Yes, boomers downplay the way things were done in the past and do things the way that makes sense to them now.Dispositions and Revenues Perhaps the most striking change in todays funeral practices is the disposition families are choosing for the bodies of their deceased. Not only is personal taste in traditional funeral music changing, it is clear that the burial practice itself is, too and taking its place is cremation. According to the Cremation Society of North America, in 1960, cremation accounted for just 3.6 percent of final dispositions in the United States. Today, it is close to a whopping 42 percent and still growing. This may be the most significant change that the funeral industry has undergone in generations. Since the average funeral home generates significantly less revenue from cremations compared to conventional burials, the advancing cremation rate is causing concern in the death-care industry. A quantification figure, promulgated by52
prominent industry consultant David Nixon, is referred to as the 40 percent factor. What it states is that for the past several years, the average cremation sale produced just 40 percent of the revenue of a burial sale. Obviously, this dictates a similar drop in profitability, and analysis of this illuminates some sobering long-term effects. The bottom line: For many funeral homes, this resultant loss of income is unsustainable. Its come to the point where some funeral directors are considering cremations break-even ventures with counter-balancing profits coming from traditional burials. Unsustainable is the correct analysis, and the death-care industry is looking for solutions.
The Need to Shift the Paradigm Lets examine this revenue dilemma a little closer. Basically, at the heart of the 40 percent factor is the lack of a casket sale. Funeral professionals know
that the traditional profit center in most funerals is the casket. The profit from this sale allows directors to offer many of the other funeral services (transportation, funeral home use, attendants, etc.) closer to cost. Funeral directors will tell you that this is funeral home economics 101 and it keeps the prices of funerals to the public reasonable. The problem is that this traditional economic model casts a shadow over cremation sales and, for some directors, outright vilifies it. Fortunately, the shift in economics due to cremation isnt lost on the major funeral product companies. Most now offer a wide variety of cremation products and supplies; all of which include excellent margins. Oddly enough, though, while most funeral directors are aware of a cremation revenue dilemma, many seem to be slow adopters of the very products that are designed to help solve the problem. Compounding this is the reluctance of many directors to proactively communicate the broad range of cremation products available to their clients. This is doubly self-defeating; if families arranging funerals dont know about the very products they need and may purchase, then potential sales are lost. The first company to take thisAmerican Funeral Director August 2010
Youd be surprised how many memories it can hold.Beyond protecting a loved ones remains, a Wilbert MemoryCapsule urn vault can act as a time capsule that preserves cherished symbols of remembrance. It can also serve as a beautiful, personalized centerpiece of a graveside ritual or ceremony that continues the funeral process.TM
So the next time a cremation family approaches you, welcome your opportunity to offer a full-service memorial that says an appropriate and heartfelt good-bye. For more information about our cremation products and services, contact your local Wilbert Licensee.
Wilbert, the Wilbert script logo, Uncompromised service. Concrete solutions, MemoryCapsule, and WilbertWay are trademarks, service marks or registered trademarks of Wilbert Funeral Services, Inc. Copyright 2010 by Wilbert Funeral Services, Inc. All rights reserved. ADV-10021009 AFD-AUG10
concept past conjecture and into quantification was Batesville Casket Co. At the 2008 CANA convention in Montreal, Canada, Nectar Remirez, director of sales at Options by Batesville, presented the results of a professional survey that polled 1,250 consumers about the knowledge they had received from funeral professionals during the funeral planning process. Here are just some of the results: A staggering 59 percent of those polled said they were unaware of the existence of cremation jewelry to hold the remains of loved ones. Forty-eight percent responded that they were unaware of the full selection of urns available. Thirty-four percent were unaware of the possibility of product engraving. Twenty-two percent didnt realize that services for burial of a loved ones cremation remains was even an option. The message from this report is clear: The major funeral product companies
are presenting plenty of cremation revenue opportunities to the death-care industry, but these options are not often being presented to families of the deceased.
Focusing on Additional Revenue Forward-thinking funeral directors are the exception to this. Some time ago they recognized the cremation revenue quandary and embraced the challenge. The first step was to stop thinking about cremation dispositions as break-even propositions cremation customers need to add to the bottom line, too. The second step is to understand that the sales of cremation products follow the good-better-best paradigm just like casket and other sales often do. As any business school professor will pontificate, there will always be customers at every buying level, and a salespersons job is to identify a potential customers approximate level and appropriately offer
products and services for him or her. That being said, many funeral professionals seem reluctant to move up the spectrum. This is probably due to a fear of being accused of overselling during an emotional time. The safest approach is to offer just the valueoriented goods and services and leave it at that. The problem with this, of course, is that many families that would want higher-end products and services will never choose them if they dont even know they exist! Heres a new way to look at this: Premium products can satisfy a real need by addressing new personal tastes in memorialization, and the sale of such products is good for both the families of the deceased and the funeral home.
Premium Cremation Products Lets start with urns. The process of cremation converts a dead body into its basic elements and gases via incineration. The residue is some 4 to 5
American Funeral Director August 2010
pounds of ashes and bone fragments that are usually ground in special processors until it resembles a fine gray sand. After processing, the remains are typically delivered to the funeral director in inexpensive, paper-based containers or tins. Most directors will then suggest to the family that they purchase a more dignified container for public presentation. While most funeral homes carry a selection of affordable urns, every family should know that premium-quality, stunningly beautiful urns are also available. Most of the major funeral products companies offer these high-end urns. Matthews Internationals Cremation Division, for example, offers urns crafted from cloisonn, brass, bronze, fine hardwoods and marble. The Options by Batesville division offers a similar array supplemented with an industryleading collection of appliqus, medallions and engraving personalization options. Aurora, Kelco and
Madelyn Co. offers a genuine crystal bracelet with interchangeable dcor cylinders.
others also have wonderful collections. Another option that every family should be presented with is keepsake jewelry. Also referred to as cremation jewelry, keepsake jewelry basically consists of pendants, lockets and bracelets. All have hidden compartments for the insertion of a small amount of cremated remains. Keepsake jewelry follows a centuries-
old tradition of keeping a memento of a loved one, often a hair clipping or a piece of clothing, in a locket or other piece of jewelry. Joni Cullen of Madelyn Co. explains the appeal, Having cremated remains, hair or other memorials of a loved one encased in jewelry is a very powerful way to feel that persons presence and companionship. We find this
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feeling is quite universal and compelling for many families. Keepsake jewelry sales often come in multiples. There is rarely a situation where a family will want just one member to have a piece of keepsake jewelry. It is far more common to have multiple family members buying at once. It is good