An article in the Times dated 15 July, based on an interview with Mike McCollum, ceo of Dignity plc, offers one or two (no more) features of interest.
His definition of an undertaker?
“We’re event organisers,” says McCollum. “We arrange a family event for you on very short notice, which you wish you didn’t have to arrange.”
“And, on the day of the funeral, we’re the master of ceremonies. The funeral director makes sure everything goes exactly to plan, to the second, and hopefully makes sure everybody, in an unfamiliar situation, knows where to sit and where to go.”
He doesn’t say if he regards this model as eternal, nor whether he is aware of trends towards empowered mourners who take a different view of the brief of a funeral event planner.
Concerning the travails of his reassuringly inept rivals, ‘Co-operative’ Funeralcare, he is defensive of the hub model and reckons “it’s time people accepted some home truths”.
“The definition of a mortuary is a place where dead people are kept. When people die and they can be in different conditions. You need specialist refrigeration, specialist conditions. You’d expect them to be clinical, to use stainless steel equipment, to be easy to clean. They’re not necessarily going to be nice places to be.”
By way of assuring Times readers who are also Dignity shareholders, the article points out that Dignity’s market capitalisation has risen from £180m to £446m and the share price from 230p to 810p. The writer does not detect the present injurious effect of underfunded funeral plans. Nor does he point out Dignity’s Achilles heel, its high prices, vulnerable, in an increasingly price-conscious market, to consumer scrutiny. Nor does he question Dignity’s policy of brand omerta, a remarkable stance for an outfit in the event-planning business.
Would you buy shares in Dignity?