Why Don't Families
Buy Your Urns?
By Mary Hickey
Many funeral home owners would love to increase their sale of
urns to families - and rightly so. First, increased sales means
increased revenue. Secondly, they would serve their families more
effectively by providing appropriate vessels to honor the family's
So, why aren't funeral homes selling more urns? Why are remains
being returned to loved ones in plastic or cardboard boxes at
least 50 percent of the time? Because urns need to be re-examined
with current trends in mind.
Ask yourself these questions:
* Do you offer a selection of urns for families traveling on
* Do you offer a selection of urns that are appropriate for scattering?
* Do you offer urns that are attractive and current-looking?
* Do you offer urns that are fairly and reasonably priced?
When designing urns, the first thing to think about is their
intended use. Keep in mind that many people travel on airplanes
for services and placements in other parts of the country - and
other parts of the world. Also, urns often are carried by elderly
widows and widowers who are normally not very strong. Urns, therefore,
must be light weight. Additionally, urns should not be made of
metal due to the Transportation Security Administration's new
procedure on the transport of crematory containers as carry-on
baggage on airplanes. Passengers may still carry-on crematory
containers, but they must pass through an X-ray machine. If an
urn is made of metal or is metal-lined, it will show up as opaque
on X-ray machines, preventing the security screener from being
able to see what is inside - an obvious security risk.
Secondly, consider the current trend toward scattering. Urns
must be easy to open and lightweight to carry, while being attractive
for a scattering ceremony. Ideally, these urns should be reusable
as keepsake boxes; it seems wasteful to never use the urn again.
So why not design them to hold photos, mementos or jewelry of
Next, look at the trend toward life celebrations. Will the design
look dignified and respectable at a celebration? Materials should
be chosen that are soft to the touch and colors that are soothing
and up-to-date. Since women are making most arrangements, urns
should be designed to appeal to women.
Finally, think about price. Urns must be able to be designed
and reproduced in large quantities, with consistent quality, and
still be affordable both to the funeral home and to the families
I’ve personally visited hundreds of funeral homes across
the country and on average it seems 50% of the time remains are
being returned in the minimum plastic box or even worse a cardboard
box. The simple question must be asked here, “Why are families
choosing such an undignified option 50% of the time?” To
find the answer, I look no further than the selection room. Most
of the urns that I see are priced between $250 and $500. Besides
that most of the urns unattractive and are not practical for what
families are doing with remains, they are also overpriced.
What if you offered the 50% of families that didn’t select
anything a line of urns that cost under $100? Might you sell more
urns? Let’s run the numbers, say you do 200 cases per year
and half of those are cremation. Of that 100 let’s say you
sold over $200 urns to 50 of those families and under $100 urns
to the other 50 families. On those 50 families that bought a $100
urn you made $50 profit. At the end of the year you would have
made an additional $2,500. That $2,500 would buy a couple airline
tickets to Hawaii or some new carpet for your funeral home. Most
importantly, you will have provided families with more affordable
and potentially more practical choices. No one wins when the families
get their loved ones back in a plastic or cardboard box.
You may want to look at the Crescent (888-856-4516) line of urns,
they have a few options under $50 wholesale, Terrybear (888-588-8767)
offers a MAUS line which stands for Most Affordable Urn Series.
The Renaissance Urn Company offers both silk urns and a biodegradable
line of urns at under $45 to the funeral home.
Five things you can do to update your urn selection:
1. Clear out urns that have not sold at least once. See if the
vendor you bought them from will trade them out for a style that
is more current. If not, create a sale table, mark them down and
move them out.
2. Divide your urn showroom by purpose: scattering, traveling,
biodegradable, artistic, mausoleum, etc.
3. Provide a low-end option that is practical, affordable and
attractive, so that you are almost guaranteed an urn sale. Offer
a line of urns priced at under $100. Cresent, Terry Bear and Renaissance
Urn Company all offer urns that wholesale for under $45.
4. Look at the lighting in the room; urns look better with more
light. Ikea has very affordable halogen lighting, with some as
low as $10 each. Three or four of these lights could make a big
5. Be sure to ask families what they plan to do with the remains
so you can help them choose the right urn for their intended use.
When looking at your urn showroom, think about the purposes those
urns may need to fill, and decide if your selection meets the
needs of the next generation of cremation consumers. With a little
makeover to your urn selection area you may find your urn revenue
increasing instead of decreasing.
Mary Hickey has a degree in marketing from the University
of Wisconsin-Madison and has 18 years experience as a marketing
executive, including consulting work with companies such as Microsoft,
Dole and Cisco Systems. In 2001, she co-founded Renaissance Urn
Co., San Francisco, www.renaissanceurns.com. She can be reached
at 800-465-0553 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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