A few weeks ago, Service Corporation International (SCI), the worlds largest consolidator of funeral homes, announced that it would be purchasing Keystone Group Holdings. Keystone, which ownes around 200 funeral homes in the US, has two locations in New Hampshire. Both locations are in Keene – Foley Funeral Home and Fletcher Funeral Home. In fact, these are the only two funeral homes in Keene. With these two firms, SCI will now operate McHugh Funeral Home in Manchester, Zis Sweeney and St. Laurent Funeral Homes in Nashua and Fleury-Patry Funeral Homes in Berlin and Gorham. With seven rooftops in the state, one would think SCI would be able to provide some real economies of scale in terms of pricing and offerings. Yet, SCI’s prices, both in NH and throughout New England and the rest of the United States are always among the highest it the communities in which it operates.
While I am all for competition, I feel the public should be made aware of which funeral homes are family owned and which are owned by publicly-traded firms who need to answer to their Board of Directors and stockholders, not the families they serve. A number of states require funeral homes to disclose their ownership on their signs and on advertisements. Call me naive, but if I see a sign or advertisement for the Jones Family funeral Home, I would expect someone named Jones to actually work there. If all this sound like bitter grapes, it’s not. In fact, to have SCI come into your community is one of the best things a competing funeral home could ask for. Generally, within a matter of months, they raise prices, change the staffing and pull back from community involvement. What more could we ask for.