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Caskets, for less, at Costco
Supplier says warehouse retailer is testing six styles at two of its Chicago-area locations.
August 17, 2004: 11:32 AM EDT

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Warehouse retailer Costco Wholesale, bulk seller of products to help save you money in life, is offering a way to save money in death, too.

The Issaquah, Wash.-based No. 1 wholesale club operator is testing six models of steel caskets at two of its locations in the Chicago area.

"We're trying to offer value to our customers like with everything else that we sell," said Gary Ojendyk, Costco's general manager of merchandising.

Ojendyk said the retailer has set up a special order program in which customers can select a casket in either of the two locations and have it shipped to their mortuary of choice within 48 hours.

Ojendyk declined to comment on the duration of the test phase or whether Costco (COST: Research, Estimates) would offer the service to more stores.

The caskets, manufactured by Cassopolis, Mich.-based Universal Casket Co., are 84 inches in length and 28 inches in width and come in a variety of colors.

The suggested retail price for each casket is $799.99, said Edward Jones, Universal's general manager.

According to Jones, the price range of caskets can vary greatly from a few hundred dollars to even thousands of dollars.

"The price is typically predicated by the cost of doing business in an area," said Jones. "However, there usually is a significant price difference between buying a casket at a funeral home and buying one at Costco."

While most caskets are still typically purchased at funeral homes, Jones said sales of caskets over the Internet have also picked up over the last few years.


David Walkinshaw, spokesman for the National Funeral Directors Association, said he doesn't think Costco's entry into the casket market will significantly impact the funeral home business.

"Third-party suppliers have been around for a while now," said Walkinshaw. "Costco is pricing caskets at $800, but many funeral homes offer caskets for much less than that amount. I don't think this will change the landscape of the market."

Added Walkinshaw, "In moments of death, people are looking for peace of mind and comfort. They don't want to be running around to different stores. With a funeral home, they can be guaranteed that the condition and delivery of the casket will meet their requirements. With a retail store, those issues are no longer the funeral director's problem."  Top of page

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