Monday, January 27, 2020

"Can the American casket monopoly be disrupted?" (HI; MATW)


Why? Oh no reason, certainly not a ghoulish search for second-order effects and third-derivative pandemic trades.

From The Hustle:
Today, two companies control 82% of all casket sales in the United States. But can a new crop of more affordable and sustainable options shake things up?
As Ben Franklin once quipped, death is one of the only certainties in life. And with that certainty comes an endless supply of customers.

Every year, 2.8m people die in the US. Around 40% of them opt to be buried — most commonly, in a casket. A $550m-per-year business, caskets make up a healthy portion of the much larger $20B death industry.

The market for burials has never been more flooded with options. You can now spend your post-life years buried in a bodysuit fashioned out of mushrooms, in a pod that turns you into a tree, or in an IKEA-style casket you assemble yourself. Whatever your post-mortem niche, there’s probably a startup for it.

But despite this abundance of businesses, efforts to re-envision the casket industry have largely fallen flat.
That’s because today, the vast majority of people who opt to bury a loved one buy a wooden casket from a traditional funeral home — a market that is almost entirely monopolized by two industry behemoths: Batesville (a subsidiary of the even bigger Hillenbrand Inc.) and Matthews International Corporation.

Together, these two companies claim a whopping 82% market share, making the casket industry one of the most consolidated sectors of the US economy.
How did this happen? And why has this particular industry been so resistant to change?

The origins of a monopoly The for-profit casket industry traces back to the mid-18th century when cabinet makers began advertising casket services alongside their regular furniture work.

In the late 1800s, the Civil War (and, strangely, the embalming of President Lincoln’s body) spawned a mass production of caskets. Across the country, hundreds of regional casket-making operations sprang up to meet the public’s new demand.

Among them was Batesville, a small manufacturer launched in 1884 by a handful of craftsmen in Indiana....MORE
One thing that always used to amuse was the fact that Hillenbrand was a major manufacturer of stretchers/gurneys and hospital beds, in addition to Batesville Casket.
They pretty much had your horizontality needs covered, from the time the ambulance pulled up until the hearse departed.
They split the businesses in 2008, Hillenbrand got the box biz, Hill-Rom (HRC) the beds.