A year of challenges

words: Jim Auld, SAIF National President
Jim Auld

While I write this article the temperature outside is hovering around -3°C. Winter seems to have come early this year – or maybe it is me being so busy I haven’t noticed the days flying by.

Last Friday evening I was honoured to attend on your behalf the 80th Anniversary Dinner of the Funeral Furnishing Manufacturers’ Association (FFMA) and it was great to see so many of our associate members there. There is no doubt that an association such as the FFMA is doing great work through its coffin testing programme; in fact Belfast Crematorium is only going to allow FFMA accredited coffins from 1 January 2020. I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before other crematoria throughout the UK begin to adopt this standard.

I am very conscious as I write this article that it is at the close of a year and I was thinking just today that 20 years ago we were planning for year 2000 and what it may bring. There was an extra public holiday and how were we going to cope? In 2000, the average time before a funeral taking place was three or four days; now it is about eight days minimum.

In January 2000, if you had said the profession would radically change in the ensuing 20 years, you would have thought yes, technology would play a huge part in this, and yes, it does, but I don’t think many of us would have thought that we would be racing to the bottom of the market, with heavy promotion of unattended cremation services (I abhor the term direct cremation, it is totally misleading).

We are also seeing companies actively engaging in a price war and the only people who are going to lose out are the families we care for.

As we draw this decade to a close and prepare to welcome a new one, I say let’s keep the flag flying for the independent funeral director and all they stand for in their communities the length and breadth of the United Kingdom.

There is no doubt the 2020s will bring further change but let’s embrace it. I for one am going to be growing the band of funeral directors displaying prices online, but let’s make these changes transparent and clear for the consumer to understand. If you have any ideas how your price list is best marketed online, please get in touch.

I would say we shouldn’t go down the route of Ryanair, where everything is priced separately from the beginning and before you know it you are paying as much as a competitor who prices transparently. I am in absolutely no doubt that we must sell ourselves better, putting an emphasis on quality of service, local facilities, local knowledge and above all being known in our local community as the go-to person for families in time of bereavement.

I’ll finish with a shameless plug for the AGM weekend on 13–15 March. Plans are well afoot for the banquet on Saturday 14 March and we couldn’t be in Scotland without a ceilidh! Full details next month!

I wish you all a very peaceful Christmas and a prosperous 2020, I am acutely aware it is never an easy time for those working in our profession, but I do hope you manage quality time with those who are dear to you. Best wishes.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,