We thought this comment deserved elevating to a post in its own right. So here it is. (Sorry about the illustration of a female in pink shorts as a reader though, we’re pretty sure it’s not an accurate depiction but it’s the best we could find).
‘Although this piece isn’t about “Quality and standards” and “Regulation” it is about the Dignity business.
I’ve long since ‘had it’ with the constant media spiel that Dignity dispenses, Nothing other than a total smokescreen aimed solely for the benefit of City Institutions/Brokers/Pension funds etc etc. who are only interested in profits, reducing overheads plus a healthy balance sheet, who on the whole know absolutely nothing about the Funeral and Cremation Industry. Those actively involved all of course employ ‘Analyst people’ with an interest in economics, figures whatever who regularly run a line over Dignity’s figures, i.e. expensively employed ‘bean-counters’. Those Dignity figures will tell them one thing only, exactly how Dignity are performing. What this doesn’t do of course is to give any idea of what the remainder of the Industry are up to. Said Analysts etc should spend an equal amount of time in looking at this excellent blog since without it, how can any comparisons be drawn……………….?
Consistently Dignity have taken a swipe at the Independent opposition by using the term “fragmented” without ever explaining the use of that term. Put simply, following results last year and earlier this year (together with the Share Price tanking) Dignity realised that they had to do something and as ever that involves a mandate in favour of an expensive Management Consultancy outfit, since that’s the sort of mandate that the Square Mile expects, Corporate Governance you know and again adding to the costs of a Funeral…………………….
Let’s have a look at their Crematoria as it’s not just the pure Funeral side of the business that I suggest is alos suffering, it will not be long (if not already) that they start to feel a real pinch in this area. For many years no new Crematoriums were built but over the past 10 + years, thanks to Westerleigh and Memoria that position has significantly changed. Take the fairly new Cromer Crem as an example, this has a forecast 1000 funerals pa. Previously the nearest Crem or should I say Crem’s were both in Norwich, both owned by Dignity. We all know that the standard Dignity Crem fee is approx £999 so that’s an almost certain annual loss in turnover of £1M from those two locations alone. Memoria also have another operation (Waveney Memorial Park) south east of Norwich which must have added to the ‘Cromer loss’. All in all Dignity must be taking a large hit in Norfolk, considerably in excess of the £1M already mentioned
Their Oxford operation I suggest is literally haemorrhaging. A few years ago Memoria opened a new site near Abingdon, all of those funerals would previously have taken place at Oxford. This operation, the South Oxon Crem (shows as per their diary,) 21 funerals during the coming week, admittedly an exceptional amount and 11 next week. Assuming 800 funerals pa, that’s another £800K that’s not rolling into Dignity’s coffers. Meanwhile down in East Devon, the now mature Southern Co-op funded East Devon Crem has taken a considerable amount of funerals away from what was a very busy Dignity operation in Exeter. That site alone has probably taken 500 funeral pa from Dignity. Basingstoke is another. The recently opened Test Valley Crem near Romsey has almost certainly affected Basingstoke, say 450 pa (and possibly more)
I’ve highlighted five Dignity Crem’s, which have almost certainly in total shown a Revenue downturn pa of at least £3M, probably more. Memoria and Weterleigh Crem’s are all cheaper than Dignity, so it’s not just the Dignity Funeral side that’s having a marked effect on ‘Funeral Poverty’, it’s their Crem’s too. I suggest that said Analysts may care to take this into account as well since the number of new Crem’s being built will almost certainly not decrease. Dignity have a monopoly/near monopoly with their Crem’s located in the Brighton, Chichester, Crawley and Leatherhead areas, all very busy but are at risk to new ‘operations’
I ‘sped read’ through the recent media hype that they’ve issued, gawd how much did that cost……….. There’s something about under-performing Branches and something else about separating the Branches from the Mortuary/Vehicle bases, Funny that, since I thought that that had always been their business model. And on under-performing Branches this is a ‘token offering’ to the Square Mile, those that current “u-p” are exactly the same as those that did, say five years ago, their under-performance has been mollified by consistently large price increases across the board. I know who some of them are and would be really surprised if there are more than 30% of the entire Dignity Branches who are significantly profitable. The plain truth is that what’s happened to Dignity during the past twelve or so months had been a long time coming, a very long time and the Management have surely been fairly arrogant during this time, in that “…..it cannot happen to us….”. Prices have consistently been ramped up to a level which cannot be justified and for whatever reason they just hadn’t accepted the power of the web and the constant on-line flow of information re prices etc from opponents, that’s pure arrogance in itself. Going back to “Corporate Governance”, the current main Board have seven members, there’s only one who has long term experience of the Industry, I suggest that they’re no more connected to the Industry than your average daily commuter
Where is the business going…………….? Can it go any further – closing a few Branches here and there makes no difference, surely they cannot increase the Crem fees again…….? It’s a massive business with much middle management. I could go on I really could……
There’s an additional dimension which never seems to be mentioned regarding the level of a Dignity funeral and the knock on effects that this has towards “funeral poverty”. Put simply, with Dignity feeling that they can keep their prices at X and X for the different aspects of a Funeral and if the ‘market’ continues to accept them, then it’s pure logic that other Corporates (who are also based in or around Dignity Branches) feel that they can also charge those amounts. On this blog, Co-operative Funeralcare have made a number of appearances, the third largest Corporate i.e. Funeral Partners have to date made just the five appearances on here. FP have grown significantly during the five or so years and seem to be in very much an ‘avaricious expansion mode’ with 160 shops (or thereabouts) to be precise. Clearly no ‘mom and pop business’. FP are no different than Dignity or F’care when it comes to on-line pricing, in fact they appear to be the most secretive. Later this week I’ll be posting on here current prices for both Dignity and FP for Funerals in the same location. Two highlights (sic) will be the cost of a local removal and for supplying a hearse. I’ll also throw into the mix, comparable prices from a mature local Independent
Finally I had intended to write something along these lines six or so months ago but as the ‘Dignity Plc issue’ per se has again appeared on here, felt that this was a good a time as any to go into print.’