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A Changing Landscape: Funeral Homes in the 21st Century

Death is a given, yet many funeral homes are seeing a notable decline in business. Of course, lower death rates are hardly cause to lament, yet it is interesting to observe how an industry that has stayed essentially the same for decades is now tasked with the need for a significant evolution.  As culture shifts become ever more apparent, customers become more savvy in their end-of-life choices and religion becomes less of a concern, funeral homes must adjust to a new generation and, perhaps, a new business model.

Meeting New Needs

This year, cremation surpassed traditional burials in popularity. People are more inclined to choose the more flexible, cheaper option that better fits faster-paced lifestyles. What’s more, religious restrictions around this formerly taboo option have been largely lifted or ceased to be a consideration. For many funeral homes, this means a decrease in traditional customers and a shift in perspective.

Beyond cremation, there is rapidly increasing interest in alternative ceremonies. It is no longer enough to prepare for two or three alternatives in the “traditional” funeral—today’s funeral directors must also be prepared to accommodate all manner of beliefs and practices. Without flexibility in this areas, it is likely that a funeral home will not survive in the long term.

Family Business Losing the Family

Funeral homes have historically been family businesses, passing down practices and business models from generation to generation. Yet with the wealth of opportunity and variety available to the next generation, the funeral business is not always their top choice. In many cases, this is a demanding job, requiring constant availability and a significant commitment to a community and its way of life.

Although, of course, funeral homes need not rely exclusively on family involvement, family-owned businesses do hold a certain trustworthiness and perceived reliability, features that may suffer if a change in ownership happens frequently.

A funeral home that is not willing to change to accommodate its new demographic may face difficulties ahead. Yet we maintain that change is fundamentally good. We are successful only because of our customers; their changing needs give direction and purpose to our business model. Phaneuf has built its reputation on our sensitivity to customer needs; we are always willing to personalize, always willing to listen to new ideas and practices. As the funeral industry changes, we are ready to change with it.

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