FEATURE A Question of Demographics While Murphy is the first to say that five friends chatting about work isn’t going to produce scientific results, the anecdotal evidence is appealing. If the number of funeral directors who practice brand loyalty is in decline, it could be related to funeral directors retiring. Funeral directors who have been at it 20 years or fewer are almost in a different business than, say, Murphy and the directors who were working in the 80s and 90s. “I believe that if that was controlled for in a poll, we would see that right along generational lines,” Murphy said. “Nothing is absolute, but I certainly believe it would be a trend, and it would be a strong one.” If demographics are a trending factor, it’s worth looking at a non-trend, which was best represented by responses to the final option on the chart about whether the internet is an imminent threat to casket sales. For most of the last seven years of the survey, the response to “We believe we will lose a significant number of sales to internet retail, third parties and casket stores in the next 24 months,” has vacillated between 4% and 6% (it was 6.3% in 2022). In 2016 it touched 9%. This relative stasis didn’t surprise Murphy. Even though Costco is still in the casket business and there are plenty of online retailers, he said he believes that most funeral directors are rightly skeptical that they will ever account for a significant number of sales. “ “I think that if we factored in online sales or casket stores, as it were, even if they were brick and mortar, I think that sliver of the pie would be really little. I don’t know that it would even reach 5%,” Murphy said. According to the last eight years of casket survey data, fewer than 10% of respondents bought most of their caskets from companies other than the largest six, Matthews Aurora Funeral Solutions, Batesville, Thansker Caskets, Astral, Sich and Private Label. Of those, nearly all named local or regional brands. There are factors that are affecting this coming from a whole lot of different angles and places, and I didn’t really realize this until I started posing this question to funeral directors. The Call to Action If indeed loyalty is fading as the result of demographic changes and/or funeral directors becoming a little more margin-focused, Murphy doesn’t see it as a net-negative for casket manufacturers. In fact, because he deals so closely with many of the casket salespeople, both corporate and distributors, he isn’t sure they rely on brand loyalty. More to the point, he doubts that these professionals count on loyalty when it comes to making sales. If the fact that loyalty seems to be fading as a decision-maker influences them at all, he said, it will only be to make them that much more responsive to customers. -Timothy Murphy, CEO and executive director of the Casket and Funeral Supply Association of America “They will say, ‘You know what? To me that’s just like another competitor opened up down the road and I’ve got to be better, then I’m going to tell my bosses we have to be price sensitive, and we have to be quality sensitive, and we can’t compromise on anything,’” Murphy said. “‘But we’re going to have “There are people that have online stores. I know some of them (I know of them, I don’t know the people personally), but I asked my distributor members who are kind of like data hounds,” he said. Murphy’s distributor members told him that internet sales weren’t on their radar because even though they may have lower prices, they aren’t in a position to influence a family’s buying decisions. While families definitely shop online for funeral homes and direct cremation, that’s primarily where their searches end, particularly at-need. CFSA Insider | Page 10 to really get the product out in front of the people and show them how good we are.’ “I really think what’s going to happen with the manufacturers and the salesforces thereof is they’re just going to go and beat it a little harder just to make sure that they hold onto their market share.” “

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