This seems to be a growing trend among progressive funeral homes today. Since we first published an article in January 2011 about ‘US Funeral Homes Adapting to Host Weddings and Other Life Celebration Events’, it seems there are more and more innovative ways in which funeral homes are serving as community centers.
The bottom line is that gross revenues for funeral homes are decreasing as our cultural attitudes to death rituals change. Traditional funerals are in decline, cremation is on the increase, home funerals are experiencing a revival, and purchasing funeral merchandise online has become a ‘norm’. All of this means funeral businesses are making less now than they did ten years ago. And what was once considered a ‘job for life’ now needs a forward-thinking approach in how to market the business, how to reach new audiences and how to bring in new revenue streams.
The Robinson Funeral Home in South Carolina caused quite a ‘storm in a tea-cup’ (excuse the pun) in October 2011 with the news that went viral about the opening of a Starbucks in their funeral home.
This wasn’t a case of a funeral home opening a corporate coffee store on their premises, but an innovative idea to open a ‘coffee corner’ offering Starbucks coffee within the community area of the Robinson Funeral Home. The coffee corner is open to the general public as well as family making funeral arrangements. It apparently fit with the legacy of the Robinson Funeral Home that had originally opened its doors within a main street store that offered refreshments.
Is it so strange to think about sitting down in a funeral home and enjoying some light refreshments? Surely there are great benefits to a funeral business if it can become more integrated into local community life and culture. And what better way than encouraging your local community to stop by and share their gossip over a caramel latte?
Arts and Crafts….and Caskets?
Another interesting adaptation of unused funeral facility space has been to host art shows. A number of funeral homes across the U.S. have hosted art shows, both temporary and permanent. It seems the somber, quiet and moody spaces within a funeral home make the ideal artsy backdrop for displaying our creative expositions.
In December 2012 Carey Hand Cox-Parker Funeral Home in Winter Park, Florida opened a converted casket storeroom as a permanent art gallery. Grace Funeral & Cremation Services of Rockford, Illinois have been hosting seasonal art shows for some time and this month will host the “Art for Eternity” art show, whereby local artists will showcase their talent displayed on top on caskets.
Using redundant space within a funeral home to host an art show may not be the greatest revenue-generating option, but it must certainly expose a funeral home to a completely different audience.
Reunion or séance
A recent news story about a high school reunion caused something of a stir when the class of 1948 Lincoln High School in Wisconsin announced that their 65th reunion would be held at Harrigan Parkside Funeral Home. The daughter of one attendee reacted by stating, “Someone has a weird sense of humor! Are they connecting with classmates that have passed?” Her mother, Alice Baryenbruch (82), says: “I’m familiar with funeral homes at this age so it doesn’t seem weird at all!”
So whether it is a life event, a celebration, a community gathering or an artistic exposition, funeral facilities have an emerging opportunity to position themselves as the center and soul of their community. With profit margins dwindling by a reported 8.5% a year for traditional funeral homes, this new market opportunity will re-invigorate those funeral businesses that can find new and imaginative ways to utilize their space.
- US Funeral Homes Adapting to Host Weddings and Other Life Celebration Events
- Drive-thru Viewing at Funeral Homes
- Thinking ‘Outside of the Box’: How Baby Boomers are challenging the Funeral Industry!
- The Online Funeral: How digital technology can reshape funerals as we know them