Funeral service provider Dignity's profits were up by nearly a quarter last year, but there's a rather sombre reason behind its success. While chief exec Mike McCollum would probably point to acquisitions, the fact that deaths were 7% higher than in 2014 (a rate of change not seen for over 60 years) helped too.
Dignity said that resulted in funeral and cremation volumes being ‘much higher than originally expected’. Underlying pre tax profits increased by 23% to £72.2m on sales that rose 14% to £305.3m.
Dignity didn’t want to be drawn on why the rise was so drastic, saying its role ‘is not to speculate on why this has happened, but rather to ensure our business can respond to the resulting increase in need for our services, without impacting the quality of service we provide’. And to be fair, it’s done a pretty solid job at that, when you look past the eyebrow-raising initial stat within the results.
Apparently 99% of families said the company met or exceeded their expectations and 98% would recommend it, though Dignity didn’t disclose how many customers provided client satisfaction feedback or how thorough the process was.
The acquisition of 36 funeral homes from Laurel Funerals in the summer of 2015helped too and Dignity opened three new satellite locations, suggesting it's planning for more growth still. The funeral service provider also received planning permission for two new crematoria which should be opened by early 2018. Good news for the funeral business, less good news for the general UK population watching the death rate with a wary eye.
The company actually seemed a little bit narked about the unexpected death rate rise, pointing out that the high number ‘to some extent masks the fact that it was another good and consistent performance by the group’. And to be fair, the company’s shares have risen 258% to £23.44 in the last five years.
Dignity did say it expects the numbers of death in 2016 to revert back to the level of 2014 – so next year might not be such a big undertaking for the company. No need to fear the Grim Reaper any more than usual, you'll be pleased to hear.