The Funeral Services Industry

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The funeral services industry is one industry that is seemingly recession proof. In the near future, no one is going to stop dying. It is a natural part of the life cycle, and when you or a loved one does expire, there will always be funeral directors reaching out a hand to help you and your family through one of the most difficult times an individual or family will have to face. Though under one broad term, funeral services actually include many sub categories, as well as many ways the practice can be done. While some industries are facing tough times, many funeral homes are seeing a peak in business as the baby boomer generation dies off. This, along with the still living baby boomers slowly retiring and leaving their positions as morticians and prep room attendants to move on in their lives. It opens the door to a new generation of small business owners and small business employees. One problem facing the industry is the threat of monopolization. Around the world bigger companies are slowly buying out independently owned funeral homes and replacing them with an almost factory atmosphere environment. This will all be discussed in detail.

History and Background of the Funeral Industry:

The funeral industry itself only began in the twentieth century; prior to this time burials and ceremonies were held privately at the deceased homes with only family and close friends present. The deceased were often buried in their own backyard or somewhere on their property that held some significance to them (Funeral Wise, 2010). This started to change when urban areas began to pop up and then cemeteries were introduced (Funeral Wise, 2010). The process of embalming, which is the act of removing any matter in the body that can immediately cause odour as well as preserving, disinfecting, and restoring the body to make it look as life like as possible, was not used by mass culture until around the time of the civil war (Funeral Wise, 2010). It was needed in order to preserve the deceased long enough to get back to their home town/country (Funeral Wise, 2010). As the practice became increasingly relevant the practice of embalming turned into a job. A funeral director refers to the profession that actually plans, and helps carry out the ceremony. They can also be referred to as an undertaker or a mortician. Funeral directors came into existence as a way to help relieve the grieving family of some of the stress that comes with planning a funeral (Funeral Wise, 2010). Furniture makers often did it because they already possessed the skills needed to produce the coffin, and owned a fleet of black horses in most cases. These horses were used to tow the hearse. These factors meant that funeral services was a logical choice for a secondary business (Funeral Wise, 2010). It is interesting to note that many small town funeral homes still use furniture stores to manufacture their coffins to this day (Personal Communication, December 1, 2010). In the beginning of the modern day funeral home, most homes were family owned, and passed down through the generations or sold to another family where it moved through the generations there. In the 1960’s however, there was an overhaul of the industry in which larger companies slowly started buying out the smaller independent homes. This is referred to as consolidation (Funeral Wise, 2010). When this happens, often the name of the funeral home is kept in an effort to keep the following the home has built over its existence. The consolidating company would take over the back office, things like book keeping, bookings, and all of the finances (Funeral Wise, 2010). To date however, a larger company owns only an estimated fifteen to twenty percent of the industry in the United States, the remaining still owned by families (Funeral Wise, 2010). It may be of interest to note that this is not just going on in the United States, but also in places as close as Kitchener-Waterloo. Another issue that the funeral...
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