Pandemic and energy crisis are transforming UK funerals

Edward Cutler knows a lot about a very special kind of international travel.

His company, Slaters International Funeral Directors, specializes in the repatriation of people who have died in the UK. It has a fleet of private ambulances to take you to Heathrow or Gatwick airports from across the UK. Like the rest of the UK, he is worried about energy prices.

“We have always charged a flat rate, no matter where the deceased is buried. But it’s getting to the point where we might have to think about charging extra mileage just because of the extra cost that’s costing us on fuel,” he told the Financial Times.

Diesel and petrol for the ambulance fleet have risen by £400 to £500 a month from £1,300 a month last year, while fuel surcharges for cargo bookings on commercial aircraft are also hurting business. “All these little things add up,” he said.

Before the pandemic, the UK funeral industry, with annual sales of £2bn

Now, with a combination of war in Ukraine, Brexit and supply chain hangovers from the pandemic, staff are tight, wages are higher and inflation is showing up in everything from stationery to cremation costs.

Clare Montagu, chief executive of Poppy’s Funerals in south London, said the company’s energy costs alone have risen 20 per cent since the start of the year and she expects them to rise again when the company reaches the end of its supply contract in January 2023.

“We don’t necessarily want to pass on all of those costs, but I think it’s probably the case that we’re going to try to do that.”

According to the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF), independent funeral directors are responsible for about two-thirds of funerals not offered under prepaid plans.

It’s harder for these small companies to bear the additional costs, but most are doing so for now, said Terry Tennens, SAIF’s CEO. But he’s not sure how long that will last. “Really, D-Day is next year when some of these supply contracts are up for grabs.”

There are also tensions at the two major funeral service providers in Great Britain.

In the first half of the year, profit at Co-op Funeralcare fell by almost a third, while Dignity posted a pre-tax loss of £156m. Because of high energy costs, she is considering a temporary fuel surcharge for cremation.

Gill Stewart, chief operating officer at Co-operative Funeralcare, said the company has not passed on higher prices to customers but may have to do so, particularly some energy costs and price hikes from third-party suppliers such as coffin makers.

“Energy is clearly the one that people should be most obviously paying attention to,” she said, “but there are a number of other areas” where the company is feeling inflationary pressures.

During the pandemic, face-to-face restrictions have forced funerals to change.

Last year, almost a fifth of funerals were “direct cremations,” also known as unattended burials. There is no hearse, procession or funeral service and they can cost under £1,000 compared to the average £3,700 for a cremation.

Kate Davidson, chief executive of Dignity, said only a small percentage of customers opt for this stripped-down service, and at Co-operative Funeralcare it’s about 10 percent, according to Stewart.

But Declan Maguire, a director at SAIF, has observed other changes in the industry. “Covid changed the game by making everyone stop and think about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it,” he said.

Maguire, who is also a director of family-run Anderson Maguire in Glasgow, added: “We’re seeing people taking a little more time to think about the options they have.”

Davidson said people are certainly becoming “more savvy” when it comes to inquiring about their options.

In 2021, the changes recommended after an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority came into effect. These include a requirement for funeral homes to provide standardized information about prices and a ban on sourcing business through relationships with hospitals, nursing homes and hospices.

Beginning this year, providers of funeral plans must also be licensed by the Financial Conduct Authority.

“The funeral sector has generated massive margins over the past decade or two. There was absolutely enough fat to raise standards and consumer protections,” said James Daley, managing director of Fairer Finance.

Cutler believes the combination of the pandemic and the falling cost of living will change things forever.

“I think many funeral homes are likely to restructure their businesses in the future before energy prices come down. . . A lot of people thought it was easier during Covid and everyone got through it and I think a lot of people think there are better things to spend money on now than extravagant funerals.”

https://www.ft.com/content/57d25c27-4dbf-4e27-a458-fc978be84843 Pandemic and energy crisis are transforming UK funerals

Adam Bradshaw

TheHitc is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – admin@thehitc.com. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button