Friday, March 9, 2012

On the funeral industry (or when you want to rock and roll EVERY night)

Sometimes we refuse to recognize that certain things in life have a business impact. Take funerals. When we're grieving over the loss of a loved one, we don't necessarily think much about the return on investment within the funeral industry. But BusinessWeek wasn't afraid to note an important point:

It's a good time to deal in death. The first baby boomers are entering their mid-60s, and the death rate in the U.S. is expected to rise from 8.1 people per thousand in 2006 to 9.3 in 2020, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

And there are competitors:

Some 44% of funeral home directors, up from 28% in 2006, blame the increasing popularity of cremations and alternative burials for sinking profits, according to consulting firm Citrin Cooperman.

And (at least as of June 2008, when the BusinessWeek article was written) the industry is dominated by small players:

[M]ulti-generational family and private companies [command] 89% of the business. A few major vertical corporations, which control everything from choice in caskets to burial services, and often provide products to small mom-and-pops, make up the rest.

The focus of the BusinessWeek article, however, is on new firms that are introducing new products that probably horrify not only the old established firms, but also a good part of the traditional firms' customer base. One example cited is Eternal Image. BusinessWeek describes its 2006-2008 product line:

In 2006 [Eternal Image] introduced the country's first licensed urn—a twisted bronze spire topped with a cross, licensed from the Vatican Library Collection. Mytych has since signed licensing agreements with the American Kennel Club, Major League Baseball, more than a dozen universities, and most recently, CBS Corp., for the rights to the Star Trek brand. His urns cost about $800, compared with $3,000 for a traditional marble one.

Eternal Image now offers licensed products from KISS, Precious Moments, and the University of Nebraska, among others. Traditionalists will be pleased to know that they will soon offer U.S. military products, as well as Boy Scout products.

Regardless of how I, as a theist, personally feel about some of these products, I cannot deny that these items are extremely important to some people. And if the most important thing in your life is your alma mater or your favorite band, why not remember that after you have passed away?
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