The Good Funeral Guide Blog

The fashion of death…

Friday, 1 July 2016

Victorian mourning hats

Guest post by Howard Hodgson

 

THE FASHION OF DEATH ALWAYS FOLLOWS THE FASHION OF LIFE.

‘In the midst of life we are but in death, of whom may we seek for succour but thee oh Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased’ are words that most of us would have associated with an Anglican funeral service a decade ago. But this is no longer the case today. Why?

It is because the post war baby boomers are starting to die. Therefore, the children of the social revolution of the early 1960s, who ripped down the lasting vestures of Victorian society and values and replaced such discipline and order with the Beatles and Bob Dylan, are now attacking conventional death ritual as it looms towards them.

This is hardly surprising. Why would a generation who grabbed power and kept it do anything else? Paul McCartney, aged 74, still fills stadia all over the world with people of all ages to listen to his music, most of which was written over 40 years ago.

We are talking of a pampered generation from birth that believes in ‘oh how to die’ as much as it did in ‘oh how to be a teenager’ all those years ago. Therefore, it is not surprising that it questions the need to have a traditional funeral – and all the costs associated with it.

This is because these folk are less religious and more allergic to formality than their parents. Therefore, they don’t like the cost associated with a distressed purchase and, in the case of some, would prefer not to be forced to attend a morbid occasion but a more colourful celebration of life or even have a party instead. After all, we are talking about the original sex, drugs and rock and roll generation.

So, while there is no escaping the pain of bereavement, it is everyone’s right to choose how to deal with it – and this is their way and it follows 100% their way of living.

As a result, today some families are shocked and concerned that a traditional funeral will cost around £4,500 while they are quite content to spend more on a family holiday and four times that sum on a wedding. This is pure baby boomer thinking.

At Memoria, we have developed three options of direct cremation to meet this new demand. Interest has been very considerable, as it has been in the same options available in the form of three pre-arranged direct cremation plans. Such options allow a family to have a one hour service of their choice while reducing the costs by between 55 – 80% dependent upon the option selected.

Last year we conducted just a mere handful of direct cremations. This year the total equals about 7% of our turnover. While I don’t expect direct cremation to grow to become 100% of the market, I do expect it to grow to over 40% in the next decade.

Furthermore, I can report that such growth is being driven by social groups A, B and C, while D and E still prefer to arrange traditional funerals. Therefore, it is safe to say that so-called ‘funeral poverty’ has little or nothing to do with this new trend.

Nevertheless, the introduction of direct cremation services has widened the choice available to all and this is a very good thing too for people of limited financial means, while not having any affect on those who still wish to choose a traditional funeral complete with hearses and limousines etc.

So there is absolutely no reason why ‘Abide with me’ should not be sung in one service and ‘Hey Jude’ played in the next.

 

Howard Hodgson

www.low-cost-funeral.co.uk

11 comments on “The fashion of death…

  1. Tuesday 5th July 2016 at 11:12 pm

    From experience, families opting for Direct Cremation are split into two main categories:

    CATEGORY A
    Those who actually want a Direct Cremation with No Service (looking for the most simple type of Funeral)

    CATEGORY B
    Those who are looking for the cheapest option available due to a low budget and affordability.

    I feel price is almost irrelevant for those in Category A as they are driven by the simplicity of the service offered.

    Families in category B would probably prefer to have a Traditional Funeral but are just unable to afford it, and I believe that Mr Hodgson is targeting these people in particular.

    Families can now opt for an affordable Funeral with Mr Hodgson, holding a service in honour of their loved ones life, without any of the costly unnecessaries such as a Hearse, Limousines etc.

    Unlike most Funeral Directors, Mr Hodgson actually owns and operates the Cremation facility enabling him to offer the complete service at a hugely reduced rate – something which most Funeral Directors just cannot compete with.

    I personally think he has been very shrewd and actually does understand the developing market. I think the market for his specification of ‘Direct Cremation’ where the family can actually attend and hold a service, will be much more popular and actually removes the need for a Funeral Director in a large number of cases.

    Companies such as Dignity who have their own Cremation Facilities now have the opportunity to move into this market which I believe will be a large percentage of the market in the coming years.

    For companies like mine, and most other independents, we will have to continue to offer the service using third party crematoria which offer reduced rate cremation slots specifically for Direct Cremation. Unfortunately we will become uncompetitive…

    Direct Cremation is changing, as have Traditional Funerals. We all just need to move with the times – I certainly will be.

    • Michael Jarvis

      Thursday 7th July 2016 at 9:28 am

      Where are we now, then? We have moved from Mr Hodgson’s thesis to an attempted gloss which is rather more muddled thinking than utter tosh.

      “We all just need to move with the times” will have brought a wry smile to some lips; there are many thoroughly decent undertakers who do, but this is a trade wherein there are also those for whom change means little more than regularly updating a fleet of ostentatious vehicles, an aspiration which has to be serviced financially. Well you can see where this is going….

    • Thursday 7th July 2016 at 2:49 pm

      Thank you for clarifying what Mr H is actually up to, Edward. I think your 2-way breakdown of the DC market is broadly accurate. As to the economics, it amazes me that it has taken so long for anyone in the business to do what Hodgson has done. I’ve lost count of the people I have urged to do this over the years. What seems to be emerging, unquestionably, is that present trends reflect a widespread dissatisfaction with the experiential value of a funeral, and hence its cost. Hodgson has enjoyed a chequered business career and a colourful private life. Whether, given his nostalgia for the past, he can make a go of the future is open to question. We shall see.

      • Thursday 7th July 2016 at 2:55 pm

        Oh one other thing, Edward. Direct cremation is direct cremation – deathbed to incinerator, no funeral. If people attend it is a funeral. Two different things. Important to assign the correct term to each. Consumers need to know what they’re buying.

        • Thursday 7th July 2016 at 3:20 pm

          Charles, I feel that the term ‘Direct Cremation’ is misused across the industry and that is where the confusion lies. As many Direct Cremation providers now allow families to attend, Hodgson has also decided to use the term Direct for a Funeral which only differs slightly to a Traditional Funeral.

          I find it easier to term it a ‘Non-Attended Cremation Only’ Funeral – says what it does on the tin.

  2. Sunday 3rd July 2016 at 9:43 am

    Well, this (kind of) illustrates the tangle that the relative newcomers to providing direct cremation are creating.

    On one hand, there used to be a fairly clear difference between a “traditional” funeral, and a “simple” funeral. In the same way, a “direct cremation” (the clue is in the name) was clearly a non-attended event – everyone knew where they stood.

    Then, we started seeing attended direct cremations, where there was no service, but folk could just “be there”.

    Now, the trend appears to favour every direct cremation provider having their own interpretation of what a direct cremation actually is.

    On the other hand, however, this is very good news for families who are looking for something ultra simple, that they can attend. It runs the risk of becoming a rather more complicated event than might otherwise have been, but the first rule of undertaking is to give the family what they want – providing it’s legal.

    Potential problem is …. this fudge may well confuse a number of families, who were previously only comparing prices …

  3. Charles Cowling

    Saturday 2nd July 2016 at 5:45 pm

    Michael, shrouded in fog as Mr Hodgson’s thinking may be, I think he is clear on two points. First, he hasn’t a clue what product he is selling; second, he is clueless about the market he is selling into. How it’s possible to make a living on this basis I don’t know, but there you go. I’d counsel Mr H to rename his business Ignis Fatuus and I’d appeal to you to absolve messrs Fuller, Smith & Turner. The effects of tosh can sometimes manifest as temporary hallucinations whereas we may be certain that London Pride is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Bottoms up!

    • Michael Jarvis

      Sunday 3rd July 2016 at 8:34 am

      Oh dear! Sackcloth and ashes and a pilgrimage to Chiswick, then.

  4. Michael Jarvis

    Saturday 2nd July 2016 at 1:10 pm

    Reading this post comes at the culmination of an odd few days: it seems that we have voted to leave the EU, the Prime Minister has thrown in the towel, the leader of the opposition refuses to follow suit, Iceland beat England, Wales beat Belgium, and to round it all off Mr Hodgson presents this. Now, to the best of my knowledge I have never met him, and I wouldn’t want to insult him, but this is utter tosh. Taking everything into account there is only one possible explanation: the London brewers have been putting something other than alcohol into my beer. I must go and lie down somewhere quiet and dark.

  5. Friday 1st July 2016 at 10:30 pm

    Would Mr H be so enthused if he were still flogging funerals not cremation services?

    My guess is his one hour chapel time direct cremation service is an attempt to fill or ‘sell’ those hard to shift early or late slots, the 9 am or the 4 pm onward. It’s about maximising capacity innit Howard?

  6. Friday 1st July 2016 at 6:12 pm

    I always believed, back in the day, in hosting guest bloggers who would infuriate the GFG’s core audience and disturb consensus, so it is salutary to wander into this blog and find myself hoist by my own petard. I can’t claim to have enjoyed the experience; my blood pressure remains dangerously high. I would never have played a trick like this.

    Mr Hodgson, your argument is nonsense. The oldest baby boomers are only 71. It is their parents who are choosing direct cremation.This fact renders your supporting sociological exposition void. Direct cremation is not an attack on the public ceremonial funeral, it is an opting out.

    You go on to say that you offer those who choose a direct cremation an 1-hr service. WTF?

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