The continued rise in cremation along with additional widespread consumer trends such as increased social media use certainly affects the way funeral homes conduct business today. Paired with the unfamiliar market brought on by a pandemic, and just like that the world we know has changed quickly and dramatically. As funeral professionals continue to navigate this new way of life and business and consumer trends continue to evolve, the industry must learn to adapt and embrace change. However, what has not changed is their duty to honor and remember the lives of loved ones with meaningful services and tributes.

“Family preferences continue to drive changes in funeral service, including the trend away from ‘traditional’ funerals. Much has been written on this topic, including the move away from religious services towards more secular services. One of the by-products of this movement has been less of an emphasis placed on casket selection by funeral directors, thereby reducing the inherent value of this product in the eyes of families,” begins Sirius Chan, President of Sich Casket. “As a result, successful casket manufacturers and distributors have responded by offering caskets at lower price points, providing caskets for special needs (i.e. oversize), and manufacturing caskets that can also be used for cremation – while also ensuring caskets are readily available for prompt delivery to the funeral home. Regardless of trends, one thing that has not changed is the fact that for many families, the casket is the centerpiece of the funeral service. It is the last thing that a family buys for their loved one; it will frame their ‘memory picture’ of their loved one for years to come,” Sirius expresses.

The traditional market is no longer so traditional as we have seen a huge shift to cremation, or direct cremation with no formal service. Families are continuing to find new and unique ways to say their final goodbyes. With the decline of traditional burial, the growth of consumer-direct caskets via the web and warehouse retailers, and the vast amount of information available to all consumers through the internet, the game is changing rapidly. Funeral homes will need to look at offering more favorable casket pricing both to stay competitive and to re-establish value in traditional funerals. But it is also up to the funeral home to shift their messaging to the changing audience, to educate them and demonstrate the range of options available, and the emotional downsides of do-it-yourself funerals.

“We find that most families are simply wanting something that looks nice, at a reasonable price and has the ability to be personalized. Families no longer care about value features such as gauge or swing bars – they look for appealing colors, casket themes that represent the life lived and the ability to ‘tweak’ things on the casket such as the interior,” explains Danielle Thacker, Vice President of Thacker Caskets.

Now more than ever, we are seeing an increasing demand for more environmentally friendly options – and without the green surcharge we saw in the past. There are a lot of innovations in designs and styles and customization happening in today’s market.

The rise of cremation has been a big change for the funeral profession. It is not heading the other way anytime soon. So, casket manufacturers need to look at their complete product offering and reevaluate the depth and breadth of their line to make sure it is in keeping with what consumers and funeral homes want, while adapting to the future.

Traditional burial services are decreasing year after year and for most funeral homes, this has translated to both decreased revenue and profit on the service side of things. Now more than ever, it is important to become very cost conscious, seeking a casket that provides a high visual value and can maintain (or even boost) the funeral home’s profit levels. This needs to happen along with the casket being sold at a reasonable retail price to families. Funeral home owners used to be very loyal to their preferred vendor no matter the cost, this scenario is slowly dissipating. They are having to be very mindful of overspending on caskets to preserve profits and by in large, they are seeking out alternative sources of casket suppliers other than the legacy suppliers.

Like caskets, burial vaults are also a vital component of the overall revenue stream for every funeral home. In terms of revenue contribution, burial vaults fall in just behind the service charge and casket sale. With the increase in cremation, vault sales are still critically important to every funeral home’s overall success.

“A burial vault with its protective inner liner helps safeguard the casket against the intrusion of groundwater or other elements, as well as meeting cemetery requirements to prevent the gravesite from settling. Funeral homes simply need to tell families why a burial vault is better than an unlined concrete box in that it provides protection and peace of mind that the contents will not be compromised. In addition, many burial vaults can be personalized for the committal service to offer a meaningful opportunity to honor a loved one,” describes Ken Moore, Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing with The Wilbert Group.

Burial vaults are also one of the greatest opportunities for the funeral professional to explain an often-misunderstood product to the family. By explaining the differences between outer burial containers and burial vaults, the funeral professional can share their expertise and at the same time build trust and confidence with the family. When a funeral professional spends extra time to help a family thoroughly understand outer burial containers and the options available, the family gets exactly what they want, which regularly includes the addition of personalization. Added personalization translates to a unique family experience at the graveside that often becomes a lasting memory for the family and the funeral professional.

“Cremation presents both challenges and opportunities for any company in our industry. It is our responsibility to find new and creative ways to promote traditional products such as burial vaults, while also searching for new products to meet consumer needs. We know that the end consumer wants personalization options, so we continue to meet that demand using tools like custom Appliqués and unique color options to create the value the consumer is looking for. We also spend a lot of time educating funeral directors and consumers about the importance of services and permanent resting places in regard to cremation,” states Ethan Darby, Marketing Director with Trigard. “We have recently started tracking more data, and we have helped our partners increase their revenue using wall graphics and digital displays. When we take the time to really listen to consumers and watch trends, these types of point of purchase displays are much more impactful than traditional miniature vault samples. The numbers are hard to argue,” Ethan emphasizes. FBA

Continue on to learn more about the importance of caskets and burial vaults despite the rapidly changing needs of today’s families. Receive advice, explore options, and get helpful information from the industry’s top companies in this feature editorial.


What challenges do you see and/or predict in the future with regards to casket manufacturing, distribution and costs to the consumer?
On the manufacturing side, as the number of casketed funerals decrease, manufacturers will continue to look for ways to drive costs out of the product while continuing to look for ways to make the casket more relevant for families. At some point, there will be no more costs to remove.

On the distribution side, funeral directors will continue to reduce their casket inventory. They will do more with presenting caskets digitally, while putting the burden for timely delivery on distributors.

On the cost side, our fate is tied to funeral directors and how well they promote the value of the casket and the value of funeral services. No doubt the costs of funerals will continue to increase. The days of expecting the sale of the casket to deliver most of the profitability are long gone. Funeral directors must price their services properly and not at a loss. Positioning the price of the casket and funeral services properly will be important to the future well-being of the funeral profession.

What products or services do you offer for traditional burial and casketed services? Do you offer any green burial products and/or alternative products?
Sich has a complete line of traditional wood and metal burial caskets. Additionally, Sich has a line of cremation caskets including several models that have eco-friendly features that offer a responsible balance between natural and traditional design.

What sets your company apart from the competition?
Several attributes differentiate Sich from other casket companies:
• As a measure of security, each Sich casket is covered by a $5 million product liability insurance policy
• Enduring commitment to traditional craftsmanship with innovative, production & distribution methods
• Sourcing of materials globally to provide the best quality and value at every price point
• Sold through a carefully-selected network of distributors so there’s no need to order a container load

Quite simply – we manufacture flawless, world-class caskets that are built to meet or exceed U.S. standards in design, features, and quality and cost far less than comparable caskets from other manufacturers.

Answers submitted by Sirius Chan, President of Sich Casket


What challenges do you see and/or predict in the future with regards to casket manufacturing, distribution and costs to the consumer?
The challenges that we see forthcoming for a funeral home is a continued shrinking supply chain (number of distributors who sell caskets). Many smaller, independent casket companies have either closed doors or have been acquired in the last 10-15 years. Thacker remains committed to its vision of being the most trusted funeral supplier and steadfast in its approach in serving the industry. We feel it is important to continue a high level of service and commitment which includes face to face sales interaction, a consultative approach in working with our funeral homes and next day delivery service.

When speaking to a prospective client, what are some frequently asked questions that you receive about your products and/or services?
Most funeral homes want to learn more about our company as many have heard of us, but do not know much about Thacker. Thacker is the 3rd largest casket company in the United States serving over 17 states through its direct distribution network. Thacker resonates with many of its customers as it is also a family owned and operated business.

What is your company’s value proposition?
The funeral industry is one of the few industries where family owned and operated businesses command over 90% of total businesses in the industry. Thacker is just like it’s funeral homes – family owned and operated. Also, similar to the funeral homes it serves, Thacker does not have other “diversification” strategies that include outside industries. We are solely focused on bringing successful ideas and strategies to the table for our funeral homes. If we can continue to make our customers successful, we will in turn earn their trust and become successful ourselves.

What sets your company apart from your competition?
Thacker continues to grow despite the traditional headwinds that the industry faces. The company has always been committed to finding creative solutions to the issues commonly faced within the industry. For example, when funeral directors continued to ask for the ability to interchange interiors, Thacker delivered Tailored Designs – the ability to change an interior of a casket for at-need delivery! We continue to look at our customers requests for the next big thing at Thacker!

Answers submitted by Danielle Thacker, Vice President of Thacker Caskets


Has the increase in cremation created opportunities for companies to reposition their existing products and/or develop new products? 
Cremation presents both challenges and opportunities for any company in our industry. It is our responsibility to find new and creative ways to promote traditional products such as burial vaults, while also searching for new products to meet consumer needs. We know that the end consumer wants personalization options, so we continue to meet that demand using tools like custom Appliqués and unique color options to create the value the consumer is looking for. We also spend a lot of time educating funeral directors and consumers about the importance of services and permanent resting places in regards to cremation.
What information should funeral directors and/or funeral home owners know about burial vaults that they should relate to their clients? 
Be introspective, ask yourself “is my vault presentation simple and understandable?” Be prepared to explain the difference between an outer burial container and a lined and sealed vault. We believe that client families with the proper information will select a lined and sealed burial vault over an inexpensive concrete box or grave liner.
What vault products and services do you provide to funeral homes? 
We provide a diverse line of burial products that includes burial vaults, urn vaults, infant casket vaults, and pet casket-vaults. We provide other products such as mausoleum trays, patient transport boards, flower carts, and bouquet tray backseaters, and bronze memorials.
What is your company’s value proposition? 
We strive to be the supplier of choice simply by partnering with our customers to help them succeed. If they are successful, so are we. We pride ourselves on great customer service and being easy to work with.
What sets your company apart from your competition? 
Our family-owned and operated business is diverse. We own a cemetery and funeral homes in Illinois, Indiana, and Arizona. We understand the challenges our customers face because we face them every day in our business. This unique perspective allows us to provide products and support we know is valuable.
Answers submitted by Ethan Darby, Marketing Director with Trigard

What information should funeral directors and/or funeral home owners know about burial vaults that they should relate to their clients?
Only a burial vault provides protection of the casket and the loved one; a concrete box does not. For little or no additional cost, depending on the vault provider and the funeral home, a family can create a treasured tribute to their loved one through personalization of the carapace with photos, images, sayings and other commemorations of their loved one’s life.

What sets your company apart from your competition?
• Wilbert Funeral Services, Inc. has the largest network of licensed locations to locally serve funeral professionals throughout the United States and Canada. We have nearly 300 locations in the US and Canada. This makes transfer services between locations seamless for the funeral professional.

• We have the most rigorous quality inspection program of any company in our industry. Every Wilbert burial vault provider is held to strict standards of performance, covering over 300 components from fabrication practices to graveside setup.

• Our diversified offering of products and services under The Wilbert Group of organizations provides a one-stop source for funeral homes and cemeteries. Products include burial vaults, cremation urns, mementos, jewelry and urn vaults, caskets, columbarium, private mausoleums, benches, urn pedestals, statuary, glass-front niches, crematory supplies, embalming fluid and prep room equipment, memorial books, and more; services include cemetery design, cemetery construction, open and close services and graveside setup.

• Under the brand Pierce Mortuary Colleges, we operate three of the nation’s finest mortuary schools to teach and educate the future leaders of our industry with the skills and specialization of the mortuary business. Our schools are: Dallas Institute of Funeral Service, Gupton-Jones College of Funeral Service, and Mid-America College of Funeral Service.

• In 2012 we created the Commemorating First Responders program to provide first responders (law enforcement, firefighters, and EMTs) killed in the line of duty with a Stainless Steel Triune® burial vault or a Stainless Steel Triune urn vault plus cremation urn. While we are honored to help, it is sad to report that to-date over 950 families have been served by our program.

Answers submitted by Ken Moore, Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing of The Wilbert Group