At the insightful economic blog MarginalRevolution.com, economist Tyler Cowen recently posted the funniest sentence he'd read that day: "Mr. Biggins said funeral homes can do anything that party planners can do."
That was enough to send me off to read TheNew York Times article that contained the sentence. I came away from it wondering about the future of the "death-care" industry. The nature of life may ensure that they'll always have a steady stream of customers, but there are changes afoot in their business.
The article began by describing the memorial service for Robert Tisch, famous for heading Loews, who died as one of America's richest people. He apparently "had a marching band at his memorial service and a packed house at Avery Fisher Hall, all orchestrated by one of New York's most prominent party planners." The memorial service for Estee Lauder, former head of -- you guessed it -- Estee Lauder, "had waiters passing out chocolate-covered marshmallows on silver trays."
Perhaps you see where this is going. In a nutshell, many funerals and memorial services across America are becoming more. dare I say fun? Less somber and traditional, at least. The growing popularity of cremation over the usual casket-and-burial routine may be helping to fuel that trend. (The Times article suggests that with no body at the service, the mood is lightened.)
So what does this mean for the death-care business? Well, the rise in cremation doesn't look like good news for casket makers such as Batesville Casket, a subsidiary of Hillenbrand Industries
Firms that buy and run funeral homes might also be affected, such as Service Corp.
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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.