Funeral Home Merchandising

By: Polyguard & Co.
Published: August 30, 2022

Give Yourself A Raise Through Merchandising

As a fourth generation funeral director I often think back some twenty- five years ago at the period of time in my life when I had just finished college with my degree in funeral service. I returned to my home town to work at our family owned funeral home. The funeral home was established by my great-grandfather at the beginning of the 20th century. I remember going into the selection room and seeing a large inventory of 20-guage caskets, brown colors for the men and pink colors for the women, many of which were non-gasketed. The outside burial containers offered were wood or concrete boxes. I asked grandfather, “Why is this all you offer?” He replied, “This is what the people want.” I realized that I would have a lot of work to do by introducing a new way of marketing merchandise in the showroom of our “home town” funeral home that had embraced a lot of conservative traditions.

After I purchased the funeral home from my grandparents, I soon found out the public I was serving was more diverse in what they wanted than I or my grandfather had ever imagined, especially when given a choice. As I began to educate the families that I served on the differences between non-perishable metals, woods and sealing or non-sealing caskets, it was interesting to watch my casket sales go from 20-guage non-sealing units to 18-guage sealing (often urn shaped) units with customized panels. It is easier for the buying public to understand the value differences in the caskets that are displayed when diversity is offered. It opens an avenue to enhance the bottom line profits. To the unpracticed eye of the buying public, all caskets in a selection room have a tendency to look alike at first glance. It is necessary, therefore, to do everything possible to enhance the differences of these caskets. This is done through lighting, variety, and show room placement.

Then came the education process of helping the general public understand why they would want to purchase a burial vault or graveliner when the cemetery did not require one. I decided that I needed to educate the cemetery people about the importance of “requiring” at least a graveliner for defining the grave space and helping to maintain the cemetery aesthetics. That was an easy sell. All the wood boxes that had been buried over the years were rotting away and the cemetery maintenance crews were having to fill in all of the old graves every spring. The cemetery people were excited to know that there were alternative products available that were not going to deteriorate over time. Now I was able to offer the families I serve in the funeral home options with added value and protection for the money they were spending on a graveliner or burial vault. Outer burial containers can be merchandised in a manner that allows the families to become educated about the differences of protective or non-protective, why non-biodegradable is desired and what makes the units non-biodegradable. Once again, to the unpracticed eye of the buying public, lack of diversity makes it difficult to offer added value and justify major price differences for increased profits. By offering additional vaults like metals or high density polymer vaults, diversity is achieved. When an airseal (dome with a base) unit is offered along with the traditional topseal vaults the public will be given choices helping to merchandise the burial vaults. When comparing light weight polymer vaults with traditional plastic lined concrete vaults, the polymer units are easier to handle and cost less money than concrete or steel. In most cases they may be sold to the public for a higher price because they offer added value, such as being non-biodegradable, providing a water resistant environment and permanence in protection. Polymer products have not only brought added value to the funeral industry but other industries as well. The building and landscaping industries are using polymers for ease in maintenance and longevity. Polymers do not rust or deteriorate, they are non-biodegradable.

Profits are realized when a family is willing to pay more for added value as diversity is offered. Caskets and outer burial containers are not the only kinds of merchandise a funeral home has for sale. Most funeral homes sell cremation urns, urn vaults and memorial cards. Once again, by offering diversity to all of these products, additional profits can be realized in each area.

Added revenues can be realized with merchandising in a cremation room. Providing miscellaneous products such as rental caskets, cremation caskets, thank you cards, prayer cards and personalized programs add diversity. Modern technology allows us to be able to offer personalized video tributes and memories on CDs or DVDs to add even more diversity and memorialization to our service. When a family analyses what choices they have when selecting a casket, burial vault, and optional merchandise they are often willing to pay more money for a product offering protection, memorialization and personalization. Most importantly, we are putting “service" back into "funeral service”. Why not give yourself a raise through merchandising?