Funeral group Dignity has reported an 11% decrease in operating profits to £19.4m in its Q1 results due to an uptake in the number of low-cost funeral as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic
In the 13 weeks to 27 March 2020, the group reported a 2% increase in revenues to £83.1m compared with £81.8m in the same period last year.
Dignity also reported a 1% increase in the number of deaths to 160,000 compared with £159,000 in 2019.
The group said: “Should 2020 witness a large number of incremental deaths, beyond the 600,000 originally anticipated by the Office for National Statistics, then it is possible that 2021 and 2022 could experience a lower number of deaths than in 2019.”
Dignity said since the end of the quarter, the UK has witnessed in excess of 20,000 deaths in a single week, the highest since the beginning of 2000. The number of possible incremental deaths as a result of Covid-19 is a matter of substantial speculation.
The group performed 20,000 funerals in the first 13 weeks of the year (Q1 2019: 19,200), representing a market share of 12.2% compared with 12% in 2019.
It also said it had stopped providing church services, alongside limousines, in order to reduce the average charge for full service funerals to £3,150.
In addition, the proportion of clients choosing a simple funeral compared to a full service funeral has increased dramatically to approximately 60% compared to the 20% seen in the first quarter.
The group said: “Combining these impacts means the group is currently achieving an overall weighted average income per funeral before ancillary revenues of approximately £2,200 compared to £2,648 achieved in the first quarter of 2020.”
Dignity added that guidance on access to crematorium and cemetery grounds is “evolving”. However, memorial sales activity will be “lower than normal “ whilst broader lockdown measures are in place.
It said: “Whilst this will be temporary, it is unclear what proportion of memorial activity that would have otherwise been sold will be able to be recovered later in the year once operations resume.”