“Cremation” seems to be the new kid on the block, but he has a best friend and they go everywhere together, and he is called “Affordable”. Yes, “Affordable+Cremation” seem to be hanging out everywhere these days, everyone wants to be their friend, even if they don’t really like them, really know who they, or what kind of company they keep!
The cremation rate in the U.S. is in a significant upward trend. We are now at a point where just over 40% of all dispositions are a cremation, and this is set to keep rising year-on-year. We may be way behind many other countries in Europe or the East, where cremation rates are nearer 80-90%, but we are now playing catch-up!
The funeral industry doesn’t really know what has hit them, in fact, they don’t really want to know. This is the biggest shake-up the death care industry has witnessed since undertakers started making wooden boxes in the Wild West. Two major epochs are converging….firstly we are still experiencing a huge global recession (sorry folks but it is not true that it is over), and secondly the baby boomers started turning 65 at the beginning of this year. The baby boomer generation is busy either bailing their kids out of debt, or choosing different death care plans. So cremation is becoming the new ‘preferred choice’ for many, because it is cheap and facilitates a more personalized, self-control death care option.
The term “direct cremation” means that no service is held, the deceased is simply collected from the place of death and cremated using an alternative container and the cremated remains are returned directly to the family in a basic plastic urn. If the family so chooses, they can opt for additional services such as a ‘goodbye’ viewing or a different cremation urn. It allows funeral costs to be kept to a minimum, whilst also enabling families to have the option of conducting their own memorial service. Essentially it eliminates much of the “professional services” and “funeral merchandise” that the funeral industry has become based upon. It disempowers the funeral director and empowers the individual.
So back to what we are witnessing in the death care industry. Many funeral homes are just opting for the ostrich syndrome and hoping everything will just go back to ‘normal’. Those that have accepted cremation is set to become a sizable proportion of their business, but are still resistive of the revenue impact, are focusing on how to up-sell cremations. You may have heard the mantra, or read the websites, that reinforce how still having a ritual (delivered for and charged by) the funeral home is vital to your sense of grieving. How you could be psychologically scarred if you forego that $3,700 cremation with service in favor of the $750 direct cremation where you can arrange your own service.
The funeral industry is being preyed upon right now, their fear is exposed, and any morsel of hope offered by marketing and consultant gurus who are going to help them suddenly reclaim their lost revenue, is being greedily devoured. These said gurus rub their hands together, lick their lips, and proffer more solutions such as a better website, social media expertise, advanced telephony systems, customer service training and business consultation. They are having a feast! Meantime those funeral directors who are seeing the light in a gestalt way, are opting for the proverbial ‘if you can’t beat ‘um, then join ‘um’ methodology.
So we are seeing ‘affordable cremation’ specialists pop up everywhere. If one comes to a town near you, that is good news, because it means the price of a basic cremation will become powerfully competitive. If you see ‘affordable cremation’ being advertised locally, or generic companies appearing such as ‘Cremation Online’, ‘American Cremation Society’ or ‘National Cremation’….then look more closely because you will find it is likely a chameleon. Many full-service traditional funeral homes now operate a separate affordable cremation division. They want to have their cake, and eat it!