The Casket Industry originated in the United States in the 1800s. The local funeral director, known as the undertaker then, typically operated a furniture store and built caskets too. In the late 19th century, the industry developed as a separate entity, with manufacturers devoting their efforts to the manufacture and sale of coffins and caskets.
and their markets generally were locally based and small. This was the
norm for the industry well into the 20th century. Products by the late
19th century included cloth-covered wood caskets, metal caskets (some
with inner liners and "glass sealing" mechanisms) and hardwood
caskets. Through the early 1950s there were more than 700 casket manufacturers
in the United States. Total 1950 industry employment is estimated at 20,000.
The 1950s saw changes in the industry. After the Korean War, sheet steel became available to industry manufacturers and metal casket production grew. By the mid 1950s, metal caskets comprised more than one-third of industry production and, by 1960, just under one-half of the market. By the mid to late 1970s, nearly two-thirds of all caskets produced were metal caskets
The industry was significantly affected. While cloth-covered caskets could be produced at nearly any facility with limited capital requirements, metal caskets require a greater investment in stamping, bending, cutting, grinding and painting equipment. Changes in product demand, cost of capital, and development of companies with national distribution systems in the late 1960s and 1970s significantly affected what had been a local and regional industry. Massive consolidation occurred in the industry. Small manufacturers found it difficult to compete effectively. By 1967, the Census of Manufacturers reported that there were only 523 in the casket industry, with employment of 16,800. In 1992, the Census of Manufacturers reported 211 producers in the industry, with employment of 7,800. The Casket and Funeral Supply Association suggests that industry employment is less than 9,000 and that the total number of entities, including many small distributors, serving funeral directors is less than 300 in 1997.
In 1996, seven companies manufactured metal casket components (tops, ends, bottoms and sides) for their own use, while several others manufacture for casket manufacturers. The total metal casket market in 1996 was estimated at about 1.3 million units, including 20-, 18- and 16-gauge steel products, stainless steel, and copper or bronze caskets.
While several primary casket manufacturers build their own hardware and make their own interior designs and panels, a few provide decorative and functional hardware for the remaining casket manufacturers. Another small group provides interior materials (cloth and specially designed interior panels) for the casket industry, although many manufacturers and some distributors manufacture, sew and install their own interior cloth linings, bed and pillow covers, and head and foot panels.
Co. and Boyertown Casket Company, in the 1960s, were the first publicly
traded companies on the Philadelphia and New York stock exchanges, respectively.
In the early 1970s, Hillenbrand Industries, which owns Batesville Casket
Co., became a publicly held company [NYSE]. Gulf & Western Corp.,
from the late 1970s until 1982, owned several casket companies. It divested
its casket industry assets in 1982 to AMEDCO, Inc. which traded on the
NASDAQ exchange. AMEDCO was sold in 1986 to Service Corporation International
[SCI: NYSE) and became known as the funeral supply division of SCI, which
later acquired the assets of Boyertown Casket Co. In 1990, SCI divested
itself of the funeral supply division. Casket production assets were acquired
by private investors who renamed the division The York Group, Inc. With
a public offering of stock in April, 1996, The York Group joined Hillenbrand
Industries as the only remaining publicly traded companies with interests
in casket manufacturing.
is concentrated, most caskets tend to be standard products. Smaller manufacturers
continue to produce custom products for their customers. In addition,
many distributors offer custom products with installation of special exterior
hardware and interior panels.
Further complicating entry into the industry are discounting practices and demands that reduce available margins needed to recover capital costs. Large publicly traded funeral home chains demand discounts from their suppliers and similar demands are increasingly made by other customers. While several large manufacturers are able to comply with the demand for discounts and special product lines, it is difficult for most industry entities to meet those demands. New entrants find it even more difficult to compete, given the capital cost associated with developing a new business in casket manufacturing.
The Market: Although it would seem that the market for caskets should grow as the number of deaths increases due to an aging population, this is not the case. The market is limited to total deaths minus body donations and casketless cremations. Casket manufacturing was confronted with a declining market in the 1970s, when health-care improvements and the availability of antibiotics resulted in a decline in deaths. Increasing cremation rates since 1980 have created a stable to declining market for the last 15 years. Total casket production in 1996 is estimated at less than 1.85 million units, including 60,000 containers specifically designed for use in cremation. In 1980, sales were estimated at 1.8 million caskets.
Association of North America (Chicago, IL) projects that cremations will
continue to increase during the next 15 years. As a result, the market
for traditional funerals and caskets may decline. The use of cremation
containers and ceremonial caskets designed for cremation may maintain
the market at current or nominally higher levels.
Steel Gauges Used for Caskets:
Non-gasketed Steel Caskets are normally made of 20-gauge steel (some companies are experimenting with 22-gauge steel). Twenty-gauge steel is the same thickness used in many automobile body panels. These caskets generally are spot-welded. They are usually the least expensive metal caskets available and are usually square-cornered designs.
Gasketed Steel Caskets are made from 20-, 18- and 16-gauge steel. These caskets are usually continuous-welded at the corners or seams. In addition, they may have seam-welded bottoms, or use epoxies to ensure integrity and reduce the likelihood of entrance of outside elements into the casket. Normally, 20-gauge caskets are square-cornered; 18-gauge and 16-gauge may be square-cornered, round-cornered, or round-cornered urn designs; 19-gauge steel caskets use 20-gauge sides and ends and 18-gauge tops and bottoms.
Most Hardwood Caskets are made of solid wood, finished in a satin or gloss coat. Some may be hand polished. Their design may be square-cornered, round-cornered or round-cornered urn shapes. Typically, select woods (poplar, willow) will be the least expensive wood caskets, followed by pine, oak, birch, maple, cherry, black walnut and mahogany. Other species of wood used in the manufacture of caskets are ash, elm, redwood, cedar, etc. It takes 130 to 150 board feet of lumber to produce a typical hardwood casket. Some caskets require more wood if they are made of 3" or 4" plank material. While normally in the third cost quartile, hardwood caskets are sometimes the most expensive caskets manufactured. Solid hardwood caskets are manufactured like fine furniture. They are assembled by craftsmen; sanded for painting or staining. Some have hand-rubbed finishes.
caskets are generally less expensive than solid wood caskets.
Copper or Bronze may be found in square-cornered, round-cornered or urn shaped designs. Rather than gauge, copper and bronze caskets are measured by weight. A 32-oz. copper or bronze casket means that the copper or bronze used weighed 32-oz. per square foot. There are also 48-oz. copper or bronze caskets.
The Casket & Funeral Supply Association of America estimates that of the 1.85 million caskets sold in 1996 production by type was about:
covered caskets (including products used in cremation);
that affect casket cost include the type of hardware and lugs (the bars
and the devices by which they are attached to the casket). Painted, stamped
steel is the least expensive, while die-cast hardware that has been buffed
and polished by hand is among the most expensive. Some hardware may be
manufactured from plastics, such as ABS or polycarbonate
Other casket types produced include fiberglass or composite caskets, stone-covered wood caskets, etc. These are generally small market penetration products and the prices are dependent on design and production cost.
Casket Costs Consider
Provided by Casket and Funeral Supply Association of America