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Costco: Coffins In Aisle 9


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TheBostonChannel.com

Costco: Coffins In Aisle 9

The Wholesale Giant Is Branching Into Casket Sales, Showing Funeral Homes That Competition In The Business Is Alive And Kicking

 

 

Bargain-minded shoppers flock to Costco (COST) for cases of diet soda, gallon-size bottles of shampoo, and big-screen TVs. The wholesale club counts on its loyal members to make repeat visits. And now it's looking to form a permanent bond with its customers.

The discounting giant introduced a line of caskets at two Chicago-area stores this week. The kiosk displays -- positioned alongside air conditioners and down the aisle from megabags of potato chips -- are still in a test-marketing phase, but Costco plans to go national with its new offerings. "You never go through this much testing unless there are plans for the future," says Bonnie Busch, an assistance vice-president and general manager in Costco's Midwest division.

The 18-gauge steel caskets, which retail for $799.99, are available in six colors, including lilac and Neapolitan blue. They can be delivered within 48 hours after being ordered.

FEW FOLLOWERS? Coffins may seem like an odd choice for a retailer that started selling cars and vacation packages in recent years. Busch, for one, thinks otherwise. "We put together a program where we can offer our members a good deal and terrific value because that's what Costco is about," she says. "It's done with a lot of sensitivity."

Analysts point to Costco's history as a sure-footed first mover. "Costco doesn't make mistakes," says Richard Hastings, a retail analyst for Bernard Sands. "I'll bet the markup is really good," he adds.

What does $799 buy at Costco? The chain is known for offering low prices on fairly high-quality products, so consumers can expect a similar value in the caskets. While Hastings believes Costco will do well with the coffins, he's doubtful other retailers will follow its lead. "If Wal-Mart (WMT) were to start selling caskets, they'd be modest pine boxes -- and they wouldn't sell," he points out.

"STYLISH PROCESS." Funeral planning has traditionally been about one-stop-shopping. Funeral homes offer everything from flowers to ceremony arrangements as well as caskets, which typically start at around $1,000 and go as high as $8,000, according to the National Funeral Directors Assn. The experience can be overwhelming, and families' complaints of being overcharged or taken advantage of are common.

Costco hopes to change that. "These things don't have to be a lugubrious experience any more. They've made it into a stylish process where people can make rational choices," says Hastings. "That's called shopping."

No word yet on whether funeral homes will start charging the equivalent of a corkage fee when the casket is purchased elsewhere.

 

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i think this is great. Affordable and accessable, whether it is for your kid coming home from the war or for your blackclad buddy's new bed {don't forget the airholes}, these are a good value.

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The experience can be overwhelming, and families' complaints of being overcharged or taken advantage of are common.

Yeah, but you're actually subsidizing for the families that are dirt poor and cannot afford to pay the full price, or at all (but for the latter its direct cremation, so my friend tells me...).

 

Damon.

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Just talked to my friend. He says that he doesn't expect this to hurt casket business at all. He thinks most people will want to go through the funeral home because its more convenient, and most people will not want to be responsible for independently purchasing a casket.

 

He also confirmed my theory on costs being subsidized by the poor. A bare bones (with a very basic casket, service, etc) costs $5K but they'll discount to $1500 if they cannot . Baby funerals are FREE. Direct cremations are free if they cannot pay but IIRC over $1K if they can. So if people feel like they are getting "ripped off" by funeral homes, they can look at this and not wonder so much anymore...

 

Damon.

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I have 15-20 coffins in my basement, my friends think it is wierd. IMO, you can't be too prepadred. I mean after all, just rinse the paint out of the gallon or quart paint cans and they should hold my ashes just fine. After all my organs get donated there should not be too much left to burn. Maybe I could fit into a dropper bottle when it is all done. If that is the case I have over 100 caskets ::P:

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See.. i'm such a huge nerd that I assume the caskets are going to be decent for miniatures. I often find myself at the dollar store or whatnot looking for cool terrain bits, or stuff I can convert for gaming. I got these Tiki statues at the dollar store, and I turned them into statues.

 

tiki1.jpg

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