Less choice as funeral group gobbles up small regional providers

Book, 10 things funeral business doesnt

Note: This is a US publication, but the same principles apply.  By the way, it’s not a home – no one lives there.

The funeral industry is a massive for profit commercial activity with a 100% assured customer base. We all die. We all rely on someone, usually family, to dispose of our bodily remains.

In rural and regional Australia this end-of-life service has for many many years been delivered by local family operated funeral providers.  This is all about to change.  And no-one will know about it unless they have the curiosity to look behind the label.

Branding has become an important part of business these days.  Maintaining a well known and respected name can be worth millions.  This is not lost on the giant corporate funeral undertaker, Invocare.

With business slowing in the larger cities and with older people moving to large regional centres, Invocare has made the strategic business decision to buy up funeral providers in the ‘bush’.

Don’t be surprised if some old names get rebadged as Simplicity or White Lady. Equally don’t be surprised if existing business names remain – with the Invocare name shunted off into small print at the bottom of the page.

Invocare already has a multiplicity of brands across Australia.  The big bloke in the funeral industry is simply widening its net of shop fronts, under the guise of giving customers more choice, to include your locally owned and operated family company.

This change in the ownership make up of Australia’s funeral industry is highlighted by Nick Bonyhady (With deaths slowing down, funeral group targets tree and sea changers, Business, SMH. February 22, 2019)

InvoCare reported a challenging year in its 2018 earnings report, issued on Friday. Revenue was roughly flat and profit was down as the company grappled with a mild flu season and effective vaccination program, writes Bonyhady.

Chief Executive Martin Earp said: “We’ve always said the market can fluctuate by plus or minus 5 per cent and we saw a downturn by about 3 per cent last year and that had an impact on our performance.”

“Generally speaking, the number of deaths does revert back to the long-term trend and the long-term trend is very positive for the industry with the number of deaths forecast to increase from 160,000 last year to 240,000 in 2034,” he said.

Nick Bonyhady reports that:  ‘InvoCare has bought funeral homes in Grafton and Port Macquarie in NSW, Ballarat in Victoria, Bunbury in Western Australia and Launceston in Tasmania, all of which have a large cohort of retirees.  … According to the company, three of the areas it is targeting for more acquisitions are projected to have much older populations than the rest of the country by 2036.’

Die-alogue Cafe has always been a strong advocate for doing your own research – get at least three quotes (make sure they don’t all have the same corporate investor behind the name), get a basics only quote and check what different providers include for the basic price – some include what others class as extras (and these can add up).

A bit of shopping around for what after all is an essential ‘service’ containing ‘products’ like coffins and flowers, makes good sense. Not only does it minimise costs, by being involved it helps us deal with the reality of the death and the need to get on with life, just as our forebears have done over the centuries before they could outsource this most normal of events within the human life cycle.

Price breakdown

This turning away from caring for our own by outsourcing funeral services to strangers, is not lost on the profit driven world of big business: Nick Bonyhady again: ‘A report by the government’s Institute of Health and Welfare found people in regional areas were more likely to smoke, less likely to get enough exercise and more likely to be overweight or obese than those who live in major cities.’

It would be rare to find a funeral company that has an interest in healthy lifestyles or minimising end-of-life medical and funeral bills or being hands on carers of the bodies of loved ones as was the norm in times past.

This is not about giving people what they want, it’s about creating a narrative that we can only get what we want by outsourcing it to a third party who supposedly has our best interests at heart – because it’s “oh so stressful and complicated.”  There is a big but here. It is this. When we peel back the veil another reality comes into focus – that we are creatures of the earth and that we go the same way as all other mammals.  The only difference is the way we dress it up.

Dignity and respect are not price dependent, but that’s not what a lot of people want to hear, and the Invocares of this world are more than happy to oblige.

For the full story click on the link:  Fewer people die in the cities

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