Firms sign deal to help independents fight back against direct cremators

SAIF, Westerleigh Group and Distinct Cremations have reached a landmark agreement to give independent funeral directors the ability to better compete in the fast growing direct cremations market.

Under the banner of ‘A Diamond Partnership’, the deal offers SAIF members in Great Britain access to an exclusive range of wholesale direct cremation rates at Westerleigh Group’s crematoria via its Distinct Cremations brand.

The firms said the move is in response to the “burgeoning” consumer appetite for direct cremation which, according to SunLife, accounted for 18% of funerals last year. At the same time, Pure Cremation sold more than 64,000 prepaid plans.

Consumer research by SAIF Digital in December 2021 has revealed that only 23% of the public believe independent funeral directors offer direct cremation. This has prompted concerns at SAIF that people are buying direct funerals unaware that they will “not be able to say goodbye properly”, whether that be via a visit in a chapel of rest or by being denied access to the funeral itself.

Prices offered to SAIF members under the Diamond Partnership start at £275 and provide funeral directors with a mixture of options involving collections, care and ashes return. Alongside this, SAIF members benefit from free marketing support and professional indemnity insurance, as well access to a range of unrivalled expertise and representation at the four governments of the UK.

Terry Tennens, chief executive of SAIF, said: “It’s been a challenging time for independent funeral directors during the past two years, what with the pandemic and regulation from the Competition and Markets Authority. Adding to these pressures has been the rise of direct cremation, which poses a significant threat to small business’ market share – largely because so many families don’t know that direct cremation is something their local funeral firm can provide.

“Through this partnership with Westerleigh Group and Distinct Cremations, SAIF members can take advantage of a range of wholesale price options and then set their own direct cremation offerings at a rate they feel is competitive.”

He added: “Not only that but it will enable funeral directors to start conversations with families to help them better understand what direct cremation is and isn’t and whether it is right for them. This is a great example of how SAIF is working hard to represent the interests of independent businesses across the country.”

Steve Wallis, MD of Westerleigh Group’s Distinct Cremations, said: “At Westerleigh, we pride ourselves on our longstanding relationship with our local funeral directors and are delighted to be working with SAIF to support these businesses as we jointly respond to changing consumer trends.

“Through this agreement, we’re able to ensure families who want direct cremation still receive the kind of high quality personal service for which Westerleigh Group crematoria and independent funeral directors are renowned.”

SAIF maintained that it is “not seeking to increase direct cremations at the expense of full-service funerals” and the partnership is about offering clients a full range of options.

SAIF and Westerleigh Group are also working on research and marketing to help members educate consumers on direct cremation and promote the important aspects of remembrance and farewell at funerals.

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