'Pay now, die later' funeral packages on the rise

Funerals are a pretty recession-proof business, as the Co-op's latest success story is proving.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The Co-operative’s Funeralcare division says it has seen a 28% rise in like-for-like sales of its bespoke funeral plans in the first half of 2009, as recession worries and a lack of confidence in traditional savings products have encouraged the elderly to start paying for their own funerals in advance. Never mind food, taxes or heating bills; it seems that some of Britain’s senior citizens are more worried about ensuring they get a decent send-off. Which is good news for undertakers...

Funerals don’t come cheap these days. In the past five years the average cost of a final farewell has jumped from under £2,000 to £2,573, apparently because funeral directors are paying more for things like cremation fees, burial spaces and fees for doctors and ministers. In fact, the funeral planning market is now worth an estimated £500m a year, so Co-op will face some stiff competition if it is to continue to dominate the market. The Co-op owns 1,100 funeral homes in Britain, but Dignity, the country’s only listed undertaker, is hot on its heels with 545 UK outlets (Dignity is also taking advantage of the thriving market, with pre-tax profits up 3.2% to £22.8m this year).

The Co-op apparently expects to sell 50,000 of these killer packages this year, which cost in the region of £2,700. Its ‘funeral in a box’ – apparently known in the trade as ‘pay now, die later’ deals – comes with a repayment schedule, so customers don’t have to fork out the full amount in one go. The instalments apparently start at £19 per month, which, according to our calculations, means that even without the interest (and you’ll be pleased to hear you get 12 months interest-free), it would take you about 12 years to pay it off. Maybe we should all start saving for our ‘final farewell’ now...

In today's bulletin:

The NHS: Britain's unhealthiest place to work?
Manufacturers cheer up - but Governor begs to differ
John Menzies up - but Jessops slides again
'Pay now, die later' funeral packages on the rise
Green issues slip down the SME priority list

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