The Co-op is dying, long live the co-op

Charles Cowling

Outside a Co-operative Funeralcare funeral home

 

“Every private equity company in the country has been in touch to try and buy its funerals operation.” Lord Myners

  In recent times the Co-op’s reputation has been kept afloat by sentiment fostered by its of-the-people-for-the-people origins, fortified by ‘ethical values’ and holier-than-thou policies on fair trade. Fondness has blinded people who should know better to its executive infirmities. Scarcely a day goes by without the announcement of fresh horror at the top. And the bad news stories about Funeralcare just keep on coming:

 

Mirror

Source

With a £2 billion loss behind it for the last year alone, and strife at the top, the viability of the ‘Group’ is now in doubt.

The GFG has earned a fair amount of hate mail for the way it has campaigned against Co-op Funeralcare. We’ve done so more in sorrow than in anger. No need for a detailed analysis of where it all went wrong, the bare bones tell the story.

Funeralcare offers a very poor deal to funeral shoppers — something all the sentimentalists who’ve tenaciously viewed the Co-op through hogwash-smeared spectacles must now acknowledge. At a time of funeral poverty and ever-rising costs its social purpose seems to have gone AWOL, the pursuit of profit remaining its sole purpose.

The predicament of the Co-op Group is dire. If things don’t get better the Co-op’s banks will have no option but to seize its assets and sell them off. Funeralcare remains vulnerable therefore to circling venture capitalists (see quote above). Under new management it could relaunch as a corporate predator — a dreadful legacy. 

And a harsh but necessary lesson for all those sentimentalists who suppose that a co-op is intrinsically better equipped to do business than a plc. The lesson we must hope they have learned is that there is no point in trading as a co-operative if you can’t get a better deal for your customers. If you can’t do that, your co-operative is a failure no matter what ethical values it signs up to.

The good news is that if any activity lends itself to a social enterprise business model it is the provision of funerals. No other model can compete. One of these days someone is going to get it right (and Dignity is going to go to the wall). Whether it’s member-owned or worker-owned, it’ll do more than walk like a co-op and talk like a co-op, it’ll act like a co-op.

FOOTNOTE: The GFG does not seek to make a name for itself by naffing people off. We exist to look for good news wherever we can find it and put bereaved people in touch with the best suppliers of goods and services. We like the co-operative model so much we even developed our own — here

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Charles CowlingAndrew Hickson (Kingfisher Funerals)LucyGMTandrew plume Recent comment authors

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GMT
Guest

Some excellent remarks on here over the past 24/48 hours, As Lucy has mentioned security guards answering calls, and what the company thinks that employ the guards, to be honest it is probably in house, it used to called loss prevention some time ago and they were employees of the coop. I can only imagine its now called multitasking and if by using people on a night shift can save the company £2,000 a month then lets face facts, its going to happen. Again Lucy mentioned the fact the coop had some great people working for them, I agree with… Read more »

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

Charles righty said (above):

“…..The lesson we must hope they have learned is that there is no point in trading as a co-operative if you can’t get a better deal for your customers. If you can’t do that, your co-operative is a failure no matter what ethical values it signs up to….”

Well, following that (and on pricing) this immediately takes Funeralcare, Anglia, East of England and Southern Co-op, immediately out of the equation

andrew

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

and ……….flash back a year or so ago, a Coop employee posted on here regarding my large number of posts expressing dissatisfaction with the performance of the mighty (sic) Funeralcare. Nothing has changed since then to make me any happier, the same old shoddy and rip off shortcomings continue (such as the above) and there are little signs of this stopping. Of course, prices continue to rise, well they have to don’t they………..? I’m not at all opposed to the Cooperative movement per se. It’s just that on the funeral side, F’care and some of their Regional colleagues have displayed… Read more »

Lucy
Guest

Prices in the window, on your website, Facebook and Twitter….yes please! I am not ashamed of what I charge for my services and have nothing to hide. I charge per hour for those wanting to do most of it themselves and support them in any way while they do. The bigger companies can’t or won’t do this. It infuriates me that if you go onto their websites, you get through to a national site and a “enter your postcode here to find your local branch” box. If you call them out of hours, you get through to a call centre.… Read more »

GMT
Guest

HI and good morning Lucy, Call centers, now that is good topic of conversation, during my years at our local Coop all FDs office bound were asked to participate in the out of hours answering the telephone rota, some declined but the majority of us agreed as it was part of the job description. The duty FD would finish work early go home, relax with a cup of tea or coffee and at 17.00 the last person in the main office would transfer the main phone over to the duty FD, calling them to confirm the transfer was done. next… Read more »

Lucy
Guest

Call centres have their place, but not in the funeral industry. If I was arranging a funeral, I would want to speak to someone who I will see the next day to make arrangements. I want to speak to someone who knows the answers to my questions. I want to speak to someone who is going to look after me. I don’t want to speak to a member of the security team who although “trained” to answer calls, but really hasn’t the first idea of taking that initial call from someone who has been recently bereaved. How on earth could… Read more »

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

“night security men”, on ‘the emergency call rota’, totally awful, shocking, this is what your local Coop – presumably East of England feels about future clients, is it…………, GMT?

all with the intentions of profit and not consumer care……yet another example of Coop arrogance and their besotted belief in themselves……..maybe you should add this lovely little fact to your window price list and also your website

let’s face it, if this is the way that all Coop’s are going, then they’re providing plenty of ammunition for the competition…………

regards

andrew

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

Hello Lucy imo, every Indy should openly display their prices and compare them with the Corporates. Past attitudes to reluctance in doing so, should be ignored, the Indy’s have to do their bit to raise the serious concern “of funeral poverty” ……….yes, the Corporates will and have no interest in acting ‘as advisers’, it doesn’t maximise profits and their arrangers haven’t and will not be trained for providing such a service. After all, why should they……….(sic) Call Centres are 101% inappropriate for the funeral industry. Dignity will pipe up and add that this means that you can book a slot… Read more »

Lucy
Guest

Andrew….I am quite happy to do a price comparison with other funeral companies and within the next two weeks, I will have all of our prices in the window. I think that most independent companies won’t want to do this because it may spark a price war…something which has already happened with the supermarkets. I have heard both the Co-op and Dignity to agree to carrying out a funeral at under their estimated costs just to “steal the funeral away from the other funeral director.” If by naming these companies in my window sparks this kind of “price war” I… Read more »

Andrew Hickson (Kingfisher Funerals)
Guest

Lucy – this should be a separate post. Charles – can you start one please?

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

yet another typically worrying and unsavoury article regarding shortcomings at F”care

I hope that it wasn’t the embalmers themselves who were given ‘the tin tack’, when it should have of course been the considerably unnecessary local management

bad bad stuff yet again

andrew

Jennifer Uzzell
Guest

We are seeing that here too with a new Co-op tiny office opening opposite the other smallish independent in town. We have not, hitherto, had a window in which a price let could be displayed, however we are expanding into the unit next door over the next month or so, giving us a suitable window and you can guarantee there will be a price list going in it!

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

excellent

the only way to go

andrew

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

F’care are obsessed with ‘the Branch opening programme’…….completely obsessed…….all it does is to increase their costs across the board

and as I continue to say on here, Mrs Average shouldn’t have to contribute to this etc etc

andrew

GMT
Guest

Funeral shoppers, I like the sound of that so down to earth. Times are changing in this profession Charles and for the better, we will still get the traditionalists but people ( Funeral Shoppers ) are now very conscious about what a funeral is going to cost, and to advertise your prices is a must. I have a business facebook page, with every post i put at least 1 of my prices on it, the All inclusive Uncomplicated Cremation for £1,992 with nothing else to pay guaranteed gets a lot of comments and is very popular, the fact the posts… Read more »

GMT
Guest

Very good point Charles,
I am the only Independent in Ipswich that does have a price list in our window cant for the life of understand why the rest of the independents dont do it, some are very traditional and have followed in fathers and grand fathers footsteps and the thought of advertising your prices is probably a big taboo.

GMT
Guest

Good Morning Nick, Can you see Funeralcare selling out, who can possibly afford to buy them out… They used to have a Gentlemans agreement with smaller Coops that they would not trade near each other, now in Bury st Edmunds Funeralcare have a office, the local Coop have a office, and the latest rumour is a closed Pub recently purchased will be transferred into a Funeral home again by the local Coop. More of interest in our local community is the fact the local Coop have announced they might have to close a convenience / food store as a Tesco… Read more »

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

ah yes GMT, Bury St Edmunds

now, as you know, F’care already trade there as ‘Bury and District Funeral Service’, no doubt with ownership being carefully hidden in their shop window

………but of course. Dignity already have three branches in B St E too, way way time for Trading Standards/OFT etc etc to get involved, talk about saturation policy and of course all three Dignity shops trade under different names

regards

andrew

Nick Gandon
Guest

If Funeralcare was to “sell-out”, I wonder what the new owners, if anything, would change?

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

Hi Nick

this would be one very very large debt for ‘a Vulture Capital’ business to swallow/maintain/service etc etc and inevitably the result would be an increase in the price list, which of course is way way too high already

regards

andrew