US Funeral Market



The U.S funeral market is currently estimated to be worth around $20.7 billion annually, with in excess of 2 million funerals taking place each year. There are an estimated 23,000 funeral directors currently offering services in the U.S, but exact numbers prove to be difficult to pinpoint as the profession is regulated differently by each State.  This does mean that it is wise to ensure the funeral director you choose is reputable.

“The honest-to-goodness truth of the matter is that everybody does die,” states Arvin Starrett, a spokesman for the National Funeral Directors Association and the owner of Starrett Funeral Home in Paris, TX in a 4/18/09 N.Y. Times article.

‘Death and Taxes’ are, as the cliché states, two unavoidable facts of life!!  And, let’s face it in an economic and political environment that changes with the wind, it is the one absolute truth we all can accept.  That is why the funeral industry, is booming when the global and domestic economy around them is crumbling. It is now estimated that the real average cost of a traditional funeral is over $8,000.

According to senior industry analyst Toon van Beeck, of research firm IBIS World, the revenue of the U.S. funeral industry will grow by 1.2% this year to a $20.7 billion dollar industry, which, in all fairness, is down from a 2% revenue gain last year.

Funeral prices, can and do, vary enormously both within a local area and between funeral directors so comparing like for like quotes is strongly recommended to anyone requiring funeral related services. Funeral director businesses range from part time, sideline ventures to family-run enterprises to small to medium groups through to international corporations.  One of the main criticisms of the industry by watchdogs and other groups is that funeral homes are not being totally clear as to their true ownership, hence the reason many traditional family business names still exist even though they may have been acquired by larger groups.  Therefore, when acquiring funeral services it is wise to establish exactly whom you are dealing with, as many people opt to choose a trusted local family funeral business, only to find they are dealing with a large corporation.   As already mentioned funeral prices can vary enormously, and as a contradiction to current retail practice, it is not always the national corporations with large buying power that offer the best value services!  As a $20.7 billion annual industry, the funeral trade has also attracted unscrupulous traders who may appear to offer very discounted services but be sure to check out any firm offering what seem unrealistically discounted services!

The National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) operate on a worldwide scale and have their own strict “Code of Practice” by which their members are bound.  It has the broader membership as it caters for the whole funeral profession, from independent through to national corporate companies.  There are a number of trade associations for the U.S, many of these operate at a State level. The vast majority of funeral homes are members of one or more of these associations and schemes; however there is no regulation or law to insist on membership of any.  It would be worth considering whether the funeral director you are selecting to handle your needs is a member of one of these trade associations. 

The funeral market in the U.S can be largely be viewed as a juxtaposition between the corporate industry and the independent family-run business.  Service Corporation International (SCI) otherwise known as Dignity Memorial are the largest corporate company in the funeral industry marketplace.  Be careful to check the identity of the funeral home you choose, as many corporate funeral homes still trade under a family name.

There are also several privately owned companies who are conducting large numbers of funerals in the US.

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