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Adapting to Change by Sharon McGukin AIFD, AAF, PFCI

Are cremations affecting your sympathy sales?

Across the country, cremations are on the rise – traditional funerals and funeral flower orders are in decline. Has your sympathy business been affected by these changes?

Business-savvy florists can adapt by offering new products and services that fit evolving sympathy trends. Selling upscale centerpieces is one example. Sending flowers to the home is also a popular choice, but florists must be cautious with their pricing. Financially, a $40 vase arrangement is no substitute for a $400 casket cover.



Flowers or plants delivered to the home can be a practical option for any budget. But, should they always be considered a budget buy? Scott Hasty, AIFD, of J SCOTTS AFLORIST in Orange, Texas, says, “No.” He approaches the situation differently.

When a family orders flowers for a cremation service, Scott doesn’t recommend lowering the price just because it’s a cremation. Instead, he discusses value with the clients. “I strongly suggest the family convert the value of their lowers from a standing piece to a conversational design for non-traditional services,” Scott explains. “I price an arrangement similar to the value of a spray because it’s of the same emotional importance.” The symbolism and visual impact remain the same.

“Since you are buying the family tribute for the memory table, your design should be comparable in value to a traditional family tribute for the casket,” Scott advises his clients.



In 2016, at 50.1 percent, cremations passed the number of casketed burials and cremations are now the most popular form of disposition. The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) suggests cremations could reach 80 percent in the U.S. by 2035.

A societal change from “grieving the death” to “celebrating the life” may be encouraging the rising popularity of cremations. Cost may also be a factor. The average cost of a funeral in North America today is $7,000 – $10,000, according to



The challenge for funeral directors and florists alike is to keep the grief-comforting traditions – memorials, visitations, and sending sympathy flowers – alive. These customs must function for new end-of-life traditions in ways people can relate to.

“As we look around the globe, we can consider England, for example,” says funeral director Bryant Hightower of Martin and Hightower in Carrollton, Georgia. “Their cremations seem to have peaked at about 90 percent. The British have maintained the comforting practice of celebrating life memorials even though cremations are prevalent.”



Cremation can cost as much as 40-50 percent less than traditional ground burial.

What’s more, fragrant funeral flowers used to be placed around a coffin to help hide the offending odors. That’s no longer necessary. Another deciding factor includes the fact that many people consider cremation eco-friendlier than burials. Bio (or green) cremations, using water and potassium hydroxide, are emerging as an alternative to flame-based cremations.

At times, traditional flowers simply no longer fit new sympathy customs. How can you adapt? One suggestion is a remembrance bouquet. In the moment of loss, people have the emotional need to do something.

We often see small bouquets laid in mass in public places where people gather to express emotion over a loss of life or disastrous event. Florists might consider promoting the practice of laying informal flower bouquets at the base of memorial tables or gravesites to give service attendees a symbolic way of expressing their grief.



Flowers are symbolic expressions of visible and emotional support. We must remind grieving families and friends to allow flowers to speak for them when there are no words. Brainstorm with your staff ways that you can grow your sympathy business by serving the flower needs of both traditional and non-traditional clientele.

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