The campaign is underway

Fran Hall

This has popped up on social media by the main funeral directing trade association, the NAFD. (That’s the one that the big, powerful corporates all belong to, not the other one that represents independent funeral directors, for anyone unfamiliar with the world of funerals).

Well, well, well. It was only a matter of time.

There must have been a lot of meetings of important men in suits trying to work out what to do about a tricky problem, as outlined by Dignity CEO Mick McCollum back in early 2018. 

A report from CityWire warned, “Shares in the business are down 60% since early November, when boss Mike McCollum warned of increasing competition in the funeral space.

In this morning’s statement, Dignity said that over the last 18 months it had ‘consistently alerted the investment community as to the increasingly competitive environment in which it operates’.

‘Customers are increasingly price-conscious and in an over-supplied industry, are shopping around more,’ it said.

Increasing competition. Like that’s a bad thing in a sector dominated by three huge companies built by buying up small independent businesses and industrialising what should never have been industrialised?

Oh, sorry, the increased competition means less market share for those men in suits and the shareholders that they serve.

And so here’s their solution. More of the smoke and mirrors, as so eloquently described by a GFG Blog reader here.

Dignity PLC, (whose management are so concerned about the state of the funeral industry that they and their spouses managed to offload millions of pounds of shares just before the value plummeted by half – see here) are the new nice guys in town.

They had a go last year and we didn’t pick it up – we don’t read the Daily Mail here at GFG Towers, but there was this swipe at ‘cowboy funeral directors’ s when they put out one of the expensive reports they publish every now and then to reassure their shareholders.

We did note that ‘The key message of Dignity being the saviour of standards in the funeral industry has been planted‘ in our blog post here last summer.

But we’ve been quite busy with other stuff, so we perhaps haven’t kept as close an eye on this Transformation Plan as we should have done.

“Ask us anything”, says Andrew Judd of Dignity, in his shirt sleeves, looking super friendly. If you really want to watch it, the YouTube link is here.

OK Andrew, here are a few questions, starting off with one we still don’t know the answer to:

Why do branches of Dignity funerals within just a few miles of each other charge such different prices for exactly the same services? (Refresh your memory here about how two different communities in London appear to be charged very differing prices by two Dignity branches trading under their original names.)

And for anyone struggling to know what questions might elicit really useful information from any funeral director, here are a few that you might want to ask before parting with your money:

Who owns this business? Is it still owned by the family whose name is over the door?

Who will be looking after us and assisting with the funeral arrangements? Will it be the same person throughout? Will they come to the ceremony with us?

Who will be looking after the person who has died? Can I meet them before engaging you?

Where will the person who has died be looked after? Can I have a look at the mortuary by appointment?

Can we come and help get our relative ready for the funeral? Can we wash and dress them ourselves? Will they stay here on these premises?

Can we come and visit them whenever we want? 

Can we look after them at home and just use your expertise for advice? How much would that cost?

Can we supply our own coffin? Is there an additional charge for this? If so, how much?

Can we arrange our own transport for the coffin? Is there a charge for this? If so, how much? And why?

Can we carry the coffin ourselves? Are the costs reduced if we don’t need your staff to carry the coffin at the funeral? If so, by how much? If not, why not?

Am sure we could think of more, but please add your thoughts in the comments – got to dash this morning.

 

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