The 10 Companies That Control the Death Industry

More


Dying in America is expensive. The average cost of a funeral, from the flowers to the plot, has grown to $9,000. With almost 1.8 million buried every year, that amounts to a $15 billion-a-year business.

The death industry, including funeral homes, crematoriums, and cemeteries, is a tale of two economies. Most of the 19,500 funeral homes in America are small operations, passed down through families over the generations. But a few large companies, many of them publicly traded (including Wal-Mart and Amazon), control the business. Those are the firms that we studied in this analysis of the death industry.



The established death industry is under siege from two forces: cremation and the Web. First, cremation has grown in popularity, due perhaps to the rising cost of burials, public concerns about overcrowded graveyards, and personal considerations. John Ross, the executive director of the Cremations Association of North America, claims that a crematory fee is $1,400 -- a sixth the cost of an average funeral. One in three bodies are cremated, according to Bob Fells, acting CEO of the International Cemetery and Cremation Funeral Association. But he expects that number to rise to one in two by 2025. If Americans continue to move toward cremation, it could spell doom for funeral homes.

Second, death has been changed by the Internet. Wal-Mart and Amazon sell caskets online at a discount, sometimes as much as two-thirds of their retail prices. This competition drags down the price of funeral is another factor that will erode the margins of the traditional funeral industry.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Douglas A. McIntyre and Michael B. Sauter are editors of 24/7 Wall St., a Delaware-based financial news and opinion operation that produces content for sites including MarketWatch, DailyFinance, Yahoo! Finance, and TheStreet.com.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

A Technicolor Time-Lapse of Alaska's Northern Lights

The beauty of aurora borealis, as seen from America's last frontier


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

What Do You Wish You Learned in College?

Ivy League academics reveal their undergrad regrets

Video

Famous Movies, Reimagined

From Apocalypse Now to The Lord of the Rings, this clever video puts a new spin on Hollywood's greatest hits.

Video

What Is a City?

Cities are like nothing else on Earth.

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In