The below article ‘The Modern Day Cemetery’ was taken from the March 2019 edition of Talking Business by Greater Dandenong.
Would you take your kids to play near a family member’s final resting place or perhaps host your wedding ceremony? It was a popular pursuit during the Victorian era and the modern funeral industry is seeing a slow reversal back to this concept.
We all know cemeteries to be a place associated with death, mourning and perhaps the supernatural, but this perception is shifting with funeral homes diversifying their core service offering to capture a wider audience.
Function rooms, on-site cafes, florist shops and sculpture gardens are now among the offerings included in many cemetery business models. These additions allow the community to consider hosting other on-site events such as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and corporate events.
In the case of Springvale Botanical Cemetery (SBC), the addition of a state-of-the-art function room (the Clarence Reardon Centre) offers families a comfortable and beautifully designed space and facilities. This development has been a turning point for the organisation which has been around since 1901.
“It is easy to become complacent in a sector that you know will always be required. Death is a part of life also, the texture and fabric of our multicultural community have changed, to remain relevant you need to constantly think outside the box.”
Being the largest cemetery within the care of the SMCT group spanning 169 hectares, the SBC has 7 function rooms and a café and florist operating under the name, Cafe Vita et flores’, providing the basic elements to run a successful on-site event under one roof.
“Expanding our service offerings to include more than the standard burial and memorial services was not only a great business decision but it has assisted us to play an active role in shifting the focus off mourning and fear to the celebration of life in a supportive environment – and this underpins our purpose,” Ms Grover said.
“Families will often celebrate a key milestone at the cemetery such as a 21st birthday or wedding to allow for the inclusion of a deceased loved one, it’s truly a beautiful thing to witness.”
According to the SMCT 2018 annual report, the fastest growing revenue stream has been the Café Vita et Flores’ in Springvale – with revenue in excess of $5 million in 2018 financial year and staggering growth of 360 per cent in five years.
The findings of quantitative and qualitative surveys undertaken by SMCT to better understand the impact of cemetery engagement in the community may surprise, including:
As a result of these findings, SBC has seen several community-centred initiatives activated including rose pruning demonstrations, historical war veteran tours, jazz in the rose gardens and cultural tours.
“In 2019 we are looking at ways we can improve our digital offering; from online seminars, live streaming, organising a function and generally providing a wider range of self-service options that support our customers,” said Ms Grover.
There is always someone willing to think outside the box and offer a better way of operating and ultimately pose a risk to your businesses ongoing success.
The modern day cemetery highlights how an organisation who may have guaranteed longevity still needs to be open to innovation and in the words of Albert Einstein: “You have to learn to play the game and then play better than anyone else.”