Dire fact of the day

Charles 10 Comments

Independent funeral directors in the greater Leicester area number only 25% of funeral Service providers.


  1. Charles

    Liam, the Yellow Pages is all you need for this task. It’s how I worked out that, down here in South Devon, we have 12 independents, 12 members of (three) local groups, 4 Dignity members and 19 Co-ops.

    So Independents, if I include the small groups in that category (a dubious practice, seeing the way they’re headed), score 52% of the total. Individual businesses, or sole traders, comprise a mere 25% and falling.

    The Co-op? 40%. And a curious observation is that Dignity has the remaining 8%, by far the smallest share in this area.

    Anyone else with a calculator and ten minutes to kill over coffee?

  2. Charles

    It’s a sad fact that in many areas, the smaller firms are under real pressure.

    The recession means families are finding it harder to pay funeral directors and spending less on funeral services. Despite this, frustratingly ‘shopping around’ is still not seen to be ‘the done thing’ by the majority of people, and so in many areas, £2,500 has become the standard Dignity/ Venture Capitalist Group funeral charge. The Co-op are usually only a little behind this figure. My average spend is under £1,800, up to £700 less than my rivals.

    With both a sympathetic disposition, for those without money and no economies of scale, I am suffering. I am starting to wonder if the big boys may yet see many of us off? We can’t easily cope with too many bad debts or slow payers.

    Last week, a Farnborough branch of the Co-op, was using vehicles and men supplied from another hub 50 miles away. Say what you like about the big firms, they can get operational efficiency from their hub and spoke system.

    Small firms like mine have to find better ways of working and marketing ourselves – within our limited resources. If you have any idea how we do this, please let me know.

  3. Charles

    David, I’m sad to read your comment. What you say about the conglomerates with their economies of scale is very true, of course.

    But we have to counter this with the knowledge that we provide an infinitely better, more personal service, as I’m sure your clients testify.

    Knowledge doesn’t make money, and for sure, every time we throw a bit of money into advertising or marketing, our competitors do the same and it doesn’t even make a hole in their pockets, but we mustn’t give up.

    Every client who has good service from us will recommend us to their friends. Of course it takes time, lots of time, and whilst it is happening we have to find other ways of marketing ourselves, which is extremely hard work. But it can be fun too, and wonderfully rewarding.

    Chin up! Set yourself a challenge. Jump out of an aeroplane and raise some money for your local hospice. Do the “2012 challenge” for a favourite charity. Rewrite your website. Expose the prices of your competitors. Offer clients a discount for fast payment. Offer something unique. How about an online tribute page? Enter a competition. Offer an extremely basic funeral. Set yourself up as “the local expert”. Use Twitter, Facebook and a blog. Send the local press something new and different every 3 weeks, they love a Funeral Director doing whacky things.

    No way are those big boys seeing us off!

  4. Charles


    The Co-op do of course dominate in your area owing to the existence of the Plymouth & South Devon Co-op and despite the funeral business now being run (I believe) by funeralcare, there will a considerable amount of loyalty sadly remaining towards the Co-op for many years ahead. There is also the ‘perceived’ (sic) discount element available to existing Co-op shareholders to sweeten the bill too, unfortunate but there it is, since the discount really isn’t ‘worth a candle’ imo

    As a former native of Devon, I have watched the decline of the Dignity operation for at least the past 20 years – in a County as large as Devon, Dignity have eight fairly far flung shops and their market share as far as I can detect, is now very low indeed and nothing compared to what those businesses were bringing in, pre-acquisiton

    At least there are the two independent family groups, i.e. Parson and Loram to contribute in bringing some opposition to the Co-op in particular and yes, Funeral Services Partnership are now fairly large in Torbay



  5. Charles


    You must NOT start to loose any enthusiasm, please. You may wonder why I blog on here, a fairly long story it is but I am an extremely passionate supporter of independent family firms

    My suggestion is, is that as part of whatever local media advertising that you go in for, that you very much ‘up the stakes’. I have not seen any ads for your business, just your website

    Looking at your area, I see this in relation to ‘potenitally’ your nearest independent rival independent:-

    a) North of you, no one until Crowthorne;
    b) West – an absence until Basingstoke;
    c) South – no firm until Bordon;
    d) South East – absent until Guildford; and
    e) due East – again no one until Woking

    That’s a large area, with I believe only Alan Greenwood in Frimley, being the nearest ‘Indy’ to you

    Where is this going?, well draw lines between those points, say it’s an out of shape circle, then with whatever device draw a complete circle within that and your Fleet office and then calculate the radius from you

    You could then quite clearly state this – “Not only are we the only Family owned Independent firm in Aldershot, Fleet and Farnborough but we are X% cheaper than any branch of our Corporate rivals operating within an X mile radius of our Head Office”

    The ‘pricelist’ page of your website needs, as you will know to be progressed and why not do exactly what the excellent AW Lymm have done as well – expose on your site the prices for those of Dignity and Co-op

    If I can introduce any further input etc, then please do contact me at:




  6. Charles

    Andrew (KIngfisher)

    I’ve just now much enjoyed ‘revisiting’ your site, where I see that you’ve very much taken ‘it to’ your two local rivals in highlighting the differences in cost. I’d imagine that Lodge are starting to feel the pinch in the St Neots area, with it almost entirely being their sole territory before Anglia and yourself opened up

    To me, there is absolutely no reason why such costs shouldn’t be demonstrated on a website – you also have your own Ceremony Room/Service Chapel which I am a real enthusiast of, something that more Independent firms should aim towards imo



  7. Charles

    Thanks everyone! I haven’t lost heart, I just get frustrated that in order to do the marketing I would like to means busting my limited budget. I know the big firms close to me are charging high prices, I will redouble my efforts to get my ‘best service/lower cost’ message out. I constantly talk to as many people locally as possible, but can their be a more difficult business to ‘promote’ than a funeral business?

    NB My website is also very frustrating – despite pressure, it’s still not yet ready to go! I want my prices on there – I do think the web is the independent’s best weapon, if not yet, then in time ahead.

  8. Charles


    – it’s ‘a must’ to get your prices online – something that errrr Dignity and funeralcare are positively opposed to

    take it to them, just as AW Lymm, for one, do



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