Do you really want mom or dad to spend eternity in a Wal-Mart casket?

Not content to undercut every other conceivable type of mom-and-pop store, Wal-Mart has now set it sights on the recession-proof business of death.

October 30 - walmart

True to its 'high price of low cost' form, Wal-Mart is now selling caskets and urns for less. For the moment, the products are only available on the Wal-Mart website. But, I have to believe it won't be too much longer before a Wal-Mart greeter, dressed in mourning black, suggests you visit aisle seven for the latest in low-priced funeral accessories.

Wal-Mart has clearly hit a new low (about six feet under to be precise).

Death is a big business that, until Uncle Sam & Co's emergence, was dominated by a few, large funeral chains and lots of mom and pop types. So, how do the latter fight back? The only possible strategy is to go up-market and adopt a value-added solutions provider positioning.

'Sure, Mr. Dimwitted, you can buy the Instant Karma model on Wal-Mart's web site for $500 less, but our 'afterlife' consultants are available 24×7 (yes, they work the graveyard shift as well). They'll help you choose interior color patterns for the casket. Would the deceased prefer paint, wood laminate or, perhaps, a floral wallpaper pattern? Wal-Mart can't help you with those decisions. And, an urn is an urn is an urn on the Wal-Mart website. Not so with us. Our afterlife consultants will custom fit the ashes. Could you imagine anything worse than spending eternity in a poorly-fitting urn? That's my idea of hell, Mr. Dimwitted.'

In a perverse kind of way, I admire ruthless marketers like Wal-Mart. They have no shame. And, they'll squeeze every supplier, underpay every employee and undercut every competitor. It's a sure fire formula for success in this world. But, will the Wal-Mart's of the world have to answer to an even higher authority in the next? I leave that to Brother Harold Camping and his followers to decide. Hey, just imagine the rush for Wal-Mart caskets on May 22, 2011 (that's when Brother Camping predicts the world will end).

*Thanks to Greg Schmalz for the idea for this post.

21 thoughts on “Do you really want mom or dad to spend eternity in a Wal-Mart casket?

  1. I completely agree that small business, and entrepreneurs, will be the engine of growth. Much like Sam Walton was in the early 1950s. As far as our new division here goes, I am deeply proud to be part of one. That said, competition is fierce and it’s too easy for larger companies with capital to spare to low-ball on price. So we’ve got to find other ways to compete. As do retailers going up against Wal-Mart. And I’m fully confident that will take place. Meanwhile, let the world’s largest retail chain sell coffins as long as consumers want to buy them there. Maybe competitive funeral product merchants will see this as a cue to improve their product/service equation. That is what I call progress.

  2. I’m sorry to hear you say that, Michael, especially since experts and pundits alike agree that small business will be the engine of the economic recovery. The fewer small businesses (courtesy) of Wal-Mart, the slower the recovery. Btw, did your family business compete with Ms Goodall? Were your family members observing chimps on other continents and simply not getting the response Ms Goodall did? Or, was it a case of Wal-Mart observing chimps from aisle seven?

  3. I’d be delighted to speak with you, Mr Duke, but your e-mail keeps bouncing back. Feel free to reach out directly to me. The answer to your question is, ‘yes,’ assuming there’s a strategy behind the product introductions.

  4. I saw the high cost of low prices. And my views today remain emphatic. Wal-Mart should offer cradle to grave if it is legal, safe, and offers consumers a price/value equation they want. Because if Wal-Mart doesn’t offer it, than will. I do come from a family whose smaller businesses (yep that’s plural) were devastated by higher volume, lower cost competitors. And my feeling is it was destinated to happen – if not by the big boxes that exist today, than other enterprises (retail chains or e-commerce) that would figure out how to do it.

  5. Fair enough Repman, I’ll limit my inquiry to a simple yes or no question: all kidding aside, do you think y’all could assist walmart in ma(p)rketing this move? No need to publish a y or n here. Email me.

  6. Thanks for the heads-up BargainHunter. Question: does one have to rent the wine and hosts as well or will the rent-a-priest provide?

  7. Thanks Lunch. One of my posts to an earlier comment suggested an almost identical idea. Maybe it also makes sense for Wal-Mart to provide downsized clerics (or clerics-in-training) for brief, cost-effective services at the store or online?

  8. Maybe you’re right, Michael. Maybe Wal-Mart should provide every conceivable low-cost cradle to grave product and service and call it a day. Why not low cost Wal-Mart sperm banks and incubators for premees? ‘Er, ah, you’ll want to drop that vial off in aisle number three, Mr Dresner. Oh, and while you’re here, why not check out the new Wal-Mart, low-cost back hoes we have on sale? They’re perfect for the do-it-yourselfer who may want to save a few bucks and dig his own grave.

  9. It’s not the casket, Debbie. It’s the juggernaut that is Wal-Mart claiming yet another category to dominate. Perhaps if you or your family had had a generations-old business destroyed by the Big Box behemoth you’d feel differently.

  10. If you have the chance, order ‘The high cost of low price.’ Let me know if you still feel the same about Wal-Mart after that.

  11. I think you missed the point of this particular blog, Michael. It wasn’t selling caskets and urns online that I found objectionable, it was Wal-Mart’s foray into yet another business sector that was once dominated by small, mom-and-pop shops. When it comes to small business, Wal-Mart is the grim reaper.”

  12. Hi Mike. Always nice to know that Repman is being read in Bentonville. That said, I typically don’t dispense free advice on the web. Nonetheless, one logical brand extension would be for Wal-Mart to designate a section of each parking lot as ‘a low cost cemetery alternative.’ That way, shoppers who have already bought the most appropriate, low-cost casket or urn can then choose a plot right outside their late, loved one’s favorite section of Wal-Mart (ie housewares, gardening supplies, etc). Talk about a value add.

  13. with commercial real estate hurting, especially that underneath most big box stores, i wonder if you can have the dearly departed buried underneath parking spots right outside their favorite Wal-Mart. you could get the casket and land in a bundled deal and pay your respects to them every time you’re shopping for rollback specials.

  14. In fairness to the original blog – there is a high cost to the low-price model of Wal-Mart – from labor relations and supplier dysfunction to “category killing” and culture homogeneity – and the availability of funeral accessories can only exacerbate the issue. That said, if someone can afford a coffin now by virtue of its availability from Wal-Mart, has more good been done than harm? At the end of the day this is not much more than another category extension from a company with leverage to enter virtually any consumer product offering (aside from banks).

  15. I agree, BargainHunter! I am not a Walmart fan by any stretch of the imagination, but why should there be a fuss about this. A casket is a product, some people may need it at some point, why shouldn’t they have options on where to buy it. Geez!

  16. The latter could start by not making the average funeral so ridiculously expensive that there would be a need for Wal-Mart and the other on-line outfits to provide a cheaper alternative.
    I have no problem with it and quite frankly don’t see what all the fuss is about.

  17. Hmmm…I think I sense some Bentonville bashing in some of these posts.,, and sell similar merchandise on-line and got there before Wal-Mart. Are these merchants any more or less unsavory or ruthless than the big cheese of retail? I don’t see it.

  18. A coffin from WalMart?! What’s next – bidding for funeral services (flowers cost extra) on eBay? How about a virtual funeral with the priest officiating via iTunes? Nothing is sacred.

  19. Steve, If Walmart offered you a 1.5 million dollar/year account to market/PR this and other initiatives, how would you do it?

  20. I thought the very same thing when I heard about this – can’t one small business be sacred from Wal-Mart and Costco? I guess not.