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 loved one.

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 commercial aircraft?
* 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?

Intended Use

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 the deceased?

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 they serve.
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 difference.
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 mary@renaissanceurns.com.
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