Is Direct Cremation here to stay…or just a fad?

At DFS Memorials we deal with people every day who are searching for a low cost funeral option.  Many are searching specifically for a cremation, already aware that a cremation is by far their most affordable funeral option.

“Direct Cremation” is the term used to describe a basic cremation that does not involve any kind of service.  It requires the minimal services of a funeral director, so the costs are reduced.  Very little preparation is done before the deceased is cremated, and the cremation is usually carried out almost immediately, depending on state cremation laws. (Some states do require a 48-hour waiting period) Opting for a direct cremation does not mean you are choosing any less dignified a death-care option for your loved one.  It can actually give you far more control over the memorialization of your loved one.  Once the direct cremation has been conducted and the cremated remains returned, you can arrange your own personalized memorial service or ash scattering.  And yet your ‘professional fees’ for handing the disposition will amount to less than $1,000 in most areas of the U.S.

Some funeral businesses are adapting to meet this demand for direct cremation but not all.  It seems that the funeral industry is largely resisting this change, preferring to hold stead-fast to the notion that we should pay their profession for the services rendered in memorializing our loved ones.  Do they think people are incapable of doing this for themselves?

A recent blog by industry experts that advise the funeral profession discussed how talking about our death care would “decrease direct cremations”.  The focus seemed to be on how surviving family were opting for direct cremation as the “more affordable, or the less-complicated funeral arrangement”.  It seems that the writer of the blog thinks that because people choose direct cremation they are not performing any ritual or ‘celebration of life’.  Personally, we think this is an example of how the funeral industry has still not got to grasps with how culture is changing.  We believe that families can choose direct cremation, save money on funeral expenses, and arrange their own befitting celebration of life as, when and how they choose.  Our society is all about choices.

DFS Memorials will help to connect you with your nearest low cost cremation provider, believing that direct cremation is NOT a fad, but is an elective choice that many are now making.  That choice can be governed simply by cost – we now have 46.2 million Americans living below the poverty line*; or simply because we have come to realize that we do not have to spend so excessively on death care.

*This is the highest number since 1993 & has continued to rise year-on-year

Service Corporation International (SCI) and their Low Cost Brands

Service Corporation International (SCI) is the largest corporate chain of funeral homes, crematories and cemeteries in North America.  They operate over 1,800 funeral homes, crematories, cemeteries and memorial gardens and trade under various trading names.  SCI’s dominance in the death care industry has mainly been due to a large-scale acquisition process, and in many cases they retained the original funeral company names.

In addition to their main Dignity Memorial brand, SCI also trades under the name Advantage Funeral & Cremation Services.  Advantage is marketed as “an affordable, simple and economical alternative to traditional funeral homes”.  According to their web site, they have 19 locations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

National Cremation Society (NCS) , Neptune Society and the Trident Society, are also all SCI brands promoting themselves as local providers of direct, affordable or low cost cremations.

Started in 1973, the National Cremation Society has 24 locations in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, New York, Oregon, Texas and Virginia.  Their claim is to offer families a simple and affordable cremation service, however in some areas they are competing with other SCI brands also offering simple and affordable low-cost cremations.

There is one commonality about all SCI’s affordable cremation brands – and that is that they DO NOT disclose any prices on their websites, or in their advertising, not really making it very easy to work out just how affordable they are!

Price disclosure is something the funeral industry in general has just not got its head around, however this is certainly an area where local companies offering a low-cost cremation can clearly gain an advantage over corporate companies.  Families searching online for an affordable cremation want to know one thing.  How much does it cost?

Affordable Cremation Specialists….if you can’t beat ‘um, join ‘um! PART I

“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!