There's a new competitor for your dollars among the cookie stores, seasonal gift shops and sunglasses kiosks at America's malls: casket and urn stores.
Hoping to cash in on retail foot traffic, companies like 'Til We Meet Again are setting up stores in malls in California, Arizona, Louisiana, Kansas, Indiana and Texas.
The mall is full of people who are shopping.
There is a trend evolving in shopping malls and it’s not what you think. The trend is stores that sell caskets, urns and other funeral items. It all started when Nathan Smith and his wife started a company called 'Til We Meet Again. They opened their first casket store in Kansas in an upscale shopping mall several years ago. They now have five stores across the country.
Shop for caskets without entering a funeral home.
"Funeral planning is something everybody knows they must do, but at the same time it's something nobody wants to do," said Robert Fells, executive director of the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association.
"Nobody gets up on a Saturday morning and says, 'Gee, it's a nice day. I wonder if I can go out and get myself a burial plot,'" Fells said.
People are more likely to browse a casket store in a shopping mall just to see what they are selling and to ask questions. Many will still choose to purchase their caskets and urns from a funeral home but others will buy their caskets in the mall.
People are more receptive in a casual setting.
The mindset behind casket stores in malls is that people are not intimidated in a casual setting. They’re drinking smoothies, buying shoes and generally in a very good mood. They let their guard down. Death is the last thing on their mind but if they encounter a casket store, let’s face it, they’re curious. It’s a different environment than in a funeral home.
"When they're going to the mall, people are not going out of need," said Nathan Smith, co-founder and CEO of 'Til We Meet Again, which has outlets in malls in Arizona, Louisiana, Kansas, Indiana and Texas.
"So if they do happen to see a place peddling coffins or urns while they're pricing T-shirts and hoodies", Smith said, "it will look far less intimidating."
Baby Boomers are more willing to talk about death.
“If the mall effort catches on, said Jessica Koth of the National Funeral Directors Association, credit the aging Baby Boom generation at least in part. Historically, people have not wanted to talk, or even think, about their demise.”
But Baby Boomers, the oldest of whom are pushing 70, are different. They want their passing to be personalized.Many are beginning to request green funerals that utilize eco-friendly caskets and no burial vaults. Others want custom-made caskets or urns that say something about who they were in life.
“That often means something that represents a favorite car or sports team”, said Smith of ‘Til We Meet Again. He pointed out he even got a request once for a casket built to resemble a portable toilet — from a guy whose company made portable toilets.
‘Til We Meet Again also carries memorial items, holiday remembrance products, cremation jewelry and a full collection of pet funeral/burial products.
So, if you are in one of the many malls that now have a casket store, feel free to shop –before you drop.
Nancy Burban 2014