Shopping malls have long been a one-stop destination for consumers. Whether in clothing stores, restaurants, banks, movie theaters or special events, larger malls offer a myriad of ways to spend money. But a new option popping up at some shopping malls takes everything to a new extreme–they are becoming a place to shop for a funeral.
Forest Lawn Memorial-Parks and Mortuaries has opened up cemetery and funeral planning carts at four Westfield malls in the greater Los Angeles area. The carts offer a vendor a lower cost option than renting and filling a whole storefront. Til We Meet Again, however, a franchise of casket stores, started opening mall locations in Wichita, Kansas; New Orleans; and Amarillo, Texas late last year.
The mall-based funeral vendors are offering caskets and cremation urns to fit the purchaser’s personality and interests, whether a favorite sports team or rock group. Til We Meet Again has options that are sanctioned by the Vatican. There are military themes, every major sports and many college team logos and colors, and custom options available.
The marketing attempts by funeral-related firms are the latest appeal to aging baby boomers. Companies have marketed to that population with age-appropriate campaigns for decades. Now, that audience is aging (baby boomers are between 50 to 70 years old), and other industries are catering to their newer needs. The financial services firms are touting retirement planning and 401(k) rollover advertising. Drugstore chains are expanding locations to serve the aging population, who typically need more prescriptions and products. Assisted living and senior housing places are also being constructed in areas with a large boomer population.
Shopping malls may seem like a strange place for making funerals plans. But the funeral industry knows that people do not want to think about or go out of their way to plan their funeral. So, they are hoping to increase awareness of the need by attracting attention when people are in a good mood and browsing at the mall. Showing casket and urn options encourages people to make their funeral plans based on their taste versus leaving it to others.
Funeral plans are expensive things to purchase. For those planning traditional funerals, a simple pine box and plot can cost a great deal of money. Caskets range from $1,000 to $7,000. Forest Lawn’s packages, which include the ceremony and embalming, range from $8,000 to over $13,000.
Cremation is a less expensive option but can cost anywhere from $650 on up. Cremation rates increased to 31 percent nationally, according to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA). But it is more common in some states. The NFDA reports the cremation rate in Nevada is nearly more than twice the national average, with California’s cremation rate at 52 percent.
It remains to be seen if the mall-based funeral marketing effort will work. The number of malls with funeral sites is still relatively small, but it is growing. The industry wants to reach people before the need to plan funerals arises. For now, shopping malls in many cities is the place to plan a funeral.
By Dyanne Weiss