The baby boomers are at it again, and this time some members of the funeral home industry are anticipating the effects of this aging generation according to a Chicago Tribune article posted October 19, 2015. Despite the fact that funeral homes have been struggling to stay in business for the past ten years (there were 21,528 funeral homes in 2004 and only 19,391 in 2014) two Chicago business partners are planning to open a new funeral home in a Chicago neighborhood in late 2015 or early 2016.
Their space will be unique. Instead of the large square foot funeral home that some might be accustomed to visiting, these business partners plan to open a small space that will not have a visitation chapel, and will not have enough space for preparation or cremation (both will be contracted off-site). This business model is catering to the “seventy percent of families planning funerals that do not need the large funeral home or the overhead” that comes with the large scale funerals. Instead, the business partners plan to find churches, people’s homes, or other places to gather. Overall, this practice will allow them to cut costs and overhead, which will then be passed along to the families requiring funeral services.
The high cost of funeral services is a problem. The Funeral Consumers Alliance recently released a study revealing the wide range of prices and the lack of disclosure of those prices. In the 1980s, the Federal Trade Commission enacted the “Funeral Rule,” which requires funeral homes to disclose prices on the phone or in-person. In these disclosures, people learn that funeral services can be itemized, in an al la carte fashion, or there may be packages available. They will also learn that there is a non-waivable fee for funeral services availability and arrangements. I think these Chicago business partners are on to something. In recognizing that people often can’t afford, or don’t need, grandiose funeral services, this Chicago team is offering a lower-overhead alternative, and a personable option where a family can choose to have a service at a recognizable place, rather than at the funeral home. Perhaps this will be the model of the future, as larger funeral homes continue to struggle to stay in business, but the need for a funeral home in a community remains.