Merchandising and Caskets... Do those go in the same sentence anymore?

Merchandising and caskets. Do those two words even go in the same sentence together anymore? Through my conversations with funeral homes, I would argue that most funeral home owners and managers fall within two philosophies: a) those that believe casket merchandising exists in terms of gauge, round ends, etc. or b) those that believe that casket merchandising does not exist anymore.

Personally, I don’t believe in either of those philosophies. So why is that?

The casket buying generations of today, largely baby boomers and Gen X’ers, do not see value in the “old school” value features that we have sold caskets on for so many years (gauge, round ends, etc.). They care about the visual value that a casket provides in relation to the price of the casket.

On the other hand, throwing casket merchandising aside is not the right thing to do either. So long as a funeral home owner plans to profit off any merchandise, not just caskets, he or she better be prepared to merchandise those products. If no attention is paid to merchandising these products, the funeral home’s profitability will be adversely affected.

With that being said, how do you evaluate your current merchandising plan in your selection room?

Put yourself in their shoes, stripping yourself of any knowledge of features of caskets like swing-bar versus stationary bar, round end versus square end, etc. and the cost differentials those features carry. Start at the entry level price point in your selection room and walk from casket to casket ascending in price order, from least to greatest. Then as yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you find yourself criss-crossing as you move about the room trying to go from casket to casket in price ascending order?

  2. Do you feel that in some areas of your selection room you are not offering an increase in visual value despite an increase in price? Or that the increase in price is too much or too little based on the visual value differential?

  3. Think about the breakdown between caskets that are over and above your average retail price point and/or over and/or above the average glass ceiling of $3,000 for a casket. Is there a larger proportion of these caskets?

If you find yourself answering yes to any of these questions you will likely need to reconsider how you merchandise caskets. Merchandising exists today… simply in a different format than it used to. Funeral homes need to migrate away from merchandising centered around the traditionalist generation to merchandising according to the principles that Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers value. So here are three tips on how to do that…

  1. Layout your room in relation to price. Let’s be honest, when you are in a buying situation you don’t like to hunt and peck around a store for the options that you need at various price points, so don’t make your customers do it either. Boomers and X’ers have little patience for this. This also allows your families to make a quick and easy decision between two caskets that are relatively close in price, and when that decision is easy… a consumer is more likely to “buy up.”

  2. First pick your retail price points, then fit the casket with the appropriate visual appeal and cost to that retail price point. As price points gradually rise, the visual appeal should also increase.

  3. If there are a large proportion of caskets that are over and above your average sale, and you tend to find your average sale in the entry 10% of spots in the selection room, OR, families are often selecting from a book because they don’t see anything in the selection room – likely your room is too high priced for your market. Use caskets that carry a lower wholesale cost by stripping out unimportant features to families, like gauge. These will allow you to pay less in wholesale cost, thus reducing the price to a family but still maintain the same profit.

Everyday families are willing to pay more for any product so long as they see added value and benefit to justify the cost. To a family, the value of a casket is determined by the visual appeal (color, theme and overall look of the casket) in relation to the price. When the family feels as if they purchased a very visually appealing casket for a modest price, they feel as if they got a value in their purchase. On the other hand, if they feel like all they could afford for their price point was an unappealing casket, or that the visually appealing caskets are at price points that are out of their budget – then they will feel like there was little to no value.

Open up and consult your casket vendor (or any of your merchandise vendors for that matter!), to determine the best product lineup that is tailored to your business goals and more importantly the needs of your families.

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