fbpx
Advertisement

Modern Sympathy

Modern Sympathy
 

“How Flowers Fit with Changing Customs and Mores” 

As the old and worn adage goes, the only certain things in life are death and taxes. And while that’s proved to be largely true throughout the ages, there certainly have been some changes along the way. Death, for example, is still with us, but the modern funeral and sympathy industry has been transitioning and evolving greatly in recent years – and that’s having an impact on florists who work in the sympathy space.

Where once heavy and somber funeral services, complete with expensive and gargantuan caskets, deeply religious overtones and an abundance of floral arrangements were almost required events, nowadays, people have turned toward other ways to mark the passing of their loved ones. Bright and airy celebrations of life offer a more optimistic and uplifting approach. Cremation has become the more popular option to traditional burial while more environmentally friendly services and burials are giving conscientious folks a different and lower impact way to exit this world.

Where once heavy and somber funeral services, complete with expensive and gargantuan caskets, deeply religious overtones and an abundance of floral arrangements were almost required events, nowadays, people have turned toward other ways to mark the passing of their loved ones. Bright and airy celebrations of life offer a more optimistic and uplifting approach. Cremation has become the more popular option to traditional burial while more environmentally friendly services and burials are giving conscientious folks a different and lower impact way to exit this world.

And we know all too well that it’s common these days to see the phrase “In lieu of flowers …” in many obituaries.

But florists should not despair; you are not a dying breed in the sympathy industry. You must, however, adapt to the changes and new trends that are transforming tradition so that friends and families will always see what flowers can do when a loved one is lost.

“Flowers always bring a natural beauty to any setting,” said Christopher Holland, managing funeral director for Penwell-Gabel Cremations, Funerals & Receptions in Olathe, Kan., which is part of the Newcomer Funeral Service Group that comprises more than 40 funeral homes, cremation centers, reception centers and cemeteries in 10 states. “Flowers bring beauty and a sense of comfort to sometimes somber occasions, and they always will.”

With that in mind, here is a look at some of the transforming trends in the industry – and some advice for keeping flowers in the picture.

cremation on the rise

Whether it be for cost, convenience, space or other reasons, people are choosing cremation more than ever before. The National Funeral Directors Association reported that the rate of cremation exceeded that of burial for the first time in 2015. Holland said Penwell-Gabel sees about 55 percent of its business in cremations.

It’s important to note, however, that just because a family goes with cremation doesn’t mean they’re skipping a service altogether. Quite the contrary. “We run about 55 percent cremation,” Holland said, “but a fair amount of families choose to have some kind of service with that, and those often include flowers.”

a new spectrum of services

The days of somber, stuffy funerals are fading and giving way to a new wave of personalized services. More and more, people are choosing to have services at special places outside – parks, natural areas or a destination spot that was a favorite of the departed – or even in their homes or yards. Some are even moving to have “living funerals” or “prefunerals” – celebrations of life while they’re still alive, giving them an opportunity to connect with their loved ones before they pass on. If you’re not familiar with this trend in your area yet, visit these websites to learn more: bit.ly/livingfuneral and bit.ly/prefuneral. But that doesn’t mean that services still aren’t in need of flowers. In fact, these types of “happier” celebrations, which are often parties of sort, lend themselves even better to the use of flowers. Through all of your marketing efforts, make sure that consumers know about these new types of services and celebrations and that you are the expert in planning them. It’s a new segment of the sympathy flowers market, one in which you can participate, with the right planning and promotion. Think outside the box and give some serious creative thought to planning your offerings for these new types of services and celebrations. Consider offering variations of floral designs (and even floral structures) that you offer for other types of special events, parties and even weddings. Be flexible in what you offer, and be willing and able to create, deliver and set up floral designs in a variety of locations. Work closely with families to find out just what flowers will be the best fit for the occasion and for the person being memorialized. This is about much more than dropping off a basket, set piece or spray at a funeral home and driving away. “We trust our florist partners to listen to and give our families exactly what they need at these important times,” said Kurt Soffe, a fourth-generation funeral director and co-owner of Jenkins-Soffe Funeral Chapels & Cremation Center in Murray and South Jordan, Utah. “And they always do. We could not be happier with the floral designers we work with.”

personalized pieces

These days, personalization is key in the sympathy industry, and that runs from the location of a service to the type of burial. It goes for flowers, too. Today, though, it means more than just offering a certain type of flower that may have had special meaning for the deceased or incorporating a portrait or a favorite possession of the deceased; it means being able to personalize floral designs that friends and family will be able to connect with. “A lot of families will find comfort in floral pieces that are personalized,” Holland said. “It may help them connect through a past experience, like if the flowers are the same as those that Dad used to give to Mom or if they are the flowers from the deceased’s wedding day.”

going green

More environmentally friendliness has come to the funeral industry in recent times, as people have become more mindful of the Earth’s resources. Green funerals and burials typically include the use of biodegradable nontoxic clothing, shrouds or caskets made from sustainable materials (wickerwillowcoffins.co.uk); no embalming or embalming with formaldehyde-free products; and, important to florists, locally grown organic flowers. These services also can include the use of only recycled paper products, carpooling and organic food. In addition, vaults and traditional standing headstones are not permitted; instead, flat rocks, plants or trees may serve as grave markers. Even cremations are going green. A new process called chemical cremation (a.k.a. bio-cremation, water cremation or resomation), is being touted as a green alternative to traditional cremation. To learn more about this trend, check out these sites: • bit.ly/chemcrem (a four-minute video) • bit.ly/watercrem • bit.ly/biomation The “green” trend is one that’s likely to continue, so you would be wise to learn as much as you can and make it a part of your business. Ideas include, where possible, form relationships with local growers who can supply organic flowers should you receive a request, and consider extending your product offerings to include small flowering shrubs or trees that families can plant in honor of their loved ones.

Learn more at these sites:

• bit.ly/envirogrn • bit.ly/grnopt • bit.ly/greenbur • finalfootprint.com • finalfootprint.com/coffins-and-caskets

in lieu of flowers …

It’s become a common phrase as a way to get people to donate money they would have spent on flowers to charitable organizations. It’s a just cause, but it’s not helpful to the floral industry. The Society of American Florists (SAF) offers some helpful tips and talking points for addressing this topic, including some alternate phrasing that might be a better approach, as well as a host of other resources to help you market your sympathy business. Visit bit.ly/safsymp.

family jewels

More and more options have been introduced for families and friends to, in essence, keep their departed loved ones close by. Those include making diamonds and memorial jewelry from the ashes or mixing cremains into molten glass or clay to create glass and ceramic art pieces. Check out lifegem.com and spiritpieces.com to learn more about this trend. There’s not much you can do to tap into this trend, but you could add a line of cremation jewelry (pendants, lockets, etc. that hold ashes) to your product offerings, particularly in you already sell jewelry in your store. And you would almost certainly be able to sell these items cheaper than funeral homes do! One source for cremation jewelry and other cremains keepsakes is In the Light Urns (bit.ly/cremjew).

As a florist, you can – and will – continue to play an important role in the sympathy industry (if you choose to), but it will require some thought, planning and marketing on your part. The more you know about trends in the sympathy industry, the better you will be able to establish yourself as an expert in the field and market your business accordingly, and that’s why we crafted this article.

Above all, Christopher Holland advises always emphasizing the value that flowers bring in celebrating and memorializing loved ones. “There are lots of ways to memorialize someone,” he said. “As funeral and floral professionals, we need to make sure we are conveying the value of flowers, because they really are important” – proof positive that there are funeral directors who like flowers and florists and recognize the positive role they play in the sympathy industry! 

About The Author

Subscribe
MELROSE

Categories

creative candles

florists' review

For all the latest industry news, contest announcements, new product introductions and much more join our weekly newsletter club.

Your information is safe with us! We do not sell or trade our customer’s data with third parties.