Cemetery Subdividers and Developers

SIC 6553

Industry report:

This industry includes establishments primarily engaged in subdividing real property into cemetery lots, and developing it for resale on their own account.

According to industry estimates, there are between 75,000 and 100,000 cemeteries in the United States. These vary in size from small plots in churchyards to huge national military cemeteries. Cemeteries may be run on a profit or not-for-profit basis. Traditional cemeteries have upright monuments, usually made of stone, and may also include private mausoleums for above-ground interment. Memorial parks, in contrast, have bronze memorials placed level to the ground rather than tombstones and often have fountains, sculptures, or memorial architecture.

According to Dun & Bradstreet, about 7,546 establishments engaged in subdividing real property into cemetery lots and developing it for resale on their own account. Together these firms employed 49,594 people and generated more than $2.5 billion in revenues in 2009. Pennsylvania was the top state in the industry, accounting for about 15 percent of total industry revenues. California was responsible for about 12 percent of total sales and New York for about 9 percent. The remainder was distributed among all other 47 states.

Natural preserve cemeteries protect and restore land and offer natural burials also known as "green" burials. Memorial Ecosystems, Inc. established its first nature preserve cemetery, Ramsey Creek Preserve, in South Carolina in 1996. Glendale Memorial Nature Preserve of DeFuniak Springs, Florida, also offered green burials. These establishments allowed only biodegradable caskets made of wood or cardboard. Because they do not allow embalming, burials must occur between 24 and 48 hours after death unless the body is stored in a hospital morgue or funeral home cooler.

The largest publicly traded firms, known as "consolidators," had operations in many states and several countries and generated over a third of all revenues in the 2000s, while the remainder of the market was fragmented among numerous regional and local firms. The large consolidators benefited from economies of scale that resulted from owning several funeral homes and cemeteries in a single area, including a central embalming location, a limousine motor pool, and a team of personnel to serve facilities in a given region. The companies also built some funeral homes in or near cemeteries, which offered customers greater convenience.

The largest of the consolidators was Service Corporation International (SCI), which in 2010 had 370 cemeteries and 1,260 funeral homes, with total revenues of $2.0 billion. The firm, based in Houston, expanded when it purchased former rival Alderwoods Group in 2006. Jefferson, Louisiana-based Stewart Enterprises Inc. was the second largest, with 140 cemeteries and 220 funeral homes. Revenues for Stewart Enterprises were $487.8 million in 2009. Another industry leader was StoneMor Partners of Bristol, Pennsylvania. StoneMor grew significantly in 2004 when it purchased 120 properties from CFSI (then Cornerstone Family Services). StoneMor made another major acquisition in 2010 with the purchase of nine cemeteries from the dissolved Hillcrest Memorial Corp. in a deal worth $14 million in cash. By late 2010 StoneMor owned 260 cemeteries and 60 funeral homes. Annual revenues in 2009 were $181.2 million.

Much of the growth of the large firms has come from the sale of "pre-need" contracts, where customers make funeral and burial arrangements for themselves. In 2005, SCI alone had $4.7 billion in contracts for prearranged funerals. In some states, pre-need policies were tax-exempt and thus served as practical tax shelters.

During the late 2000s and early 2010s, cemetery operators were affected by a growing trend toward cremation. By then, according to the Cremation Association of North America, almost 40 percent of Americas were choosing cremation over traditional burial. That number was projected to rise to over 60 percent by 2025. More people were also choosing to scatter the ashes rather than bury them, leading to a reduced need for cemeteries. However, the industry's long-term outlook remained positive as the U.S. population aged, with the first baby boomers reaching retirement age in 2008.

The National Cemetery Administration, which operates the nation's national cemeteries, expanded during the late 2000s in preparation for the increasing number of deceased World War II veterans. To accommodate the growing numbers, the NCA was directed by Congress to establish 12 new cemeteries, which expanded its burial capacity by 85 percent. By 2010 there were 131 national cemeteries, where about 12 percent of all veterans choose to be buried.

© COPYRIGHT 2018 The Gale Group, Inc. This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan. All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to the Gale Group. For permission to reuse this article, contact the Copyright Clearance Center.

News and information about Cemetery Subdividers and Developers

Where Is ST. Joe Company (The)?: Labor Productivity and Financial Competitiveness Benchmarks Published.
Internet Wire; January 16, 2003; 700+ words
...competing firms in the Land Subdividers and Developers Excluding Cemeteries industry worldwide...and Developers Excluding Cemeteries companies. The Earnings...and Developers Excluding Cemeteries industry. The labor productivity...
Commentary: Longer renewal period allows focus on licensees harming public
Arizona Capitol Times; June 22, 2007; 659 words
...real estate agents, brokerages, schools, developers, timeshares, cemeteries and campgrounds. In 2003, Arizona had approximately...requirements and ways to reduce violations. Illegal subdividers harm buyers, taxpayers and communities and...

Search all articles about Cemetery Subdividers and Developers