We’re Shorting Dignity PLC Stock 5

Warning: This blog post is not investment advice and neither is the report which it links to. By accessing either, you confirm that you have read and agree to the Terms of Use.

Hello,

We’re rapidly bringing price transparency to the funeral industry

At Beyond*, we’re on a mission to make choosing a funeral director a more transparent process. To that end, and to date, we have signed up over 800 independent funeral directors to share their full, itemised, comparable prices online.

There are, however, two large obstacles to price transparency in this market, namely Dignity PLC and Coop Funeralcare. They represent 34% of the market and are desperate to avoid price transparency, despite occasional claims otherwise.

UK Funeral Market Affiliation Dignity PLC
UK Funeral Market Affiliation

Dignity’s business model is unsustainable

Why such shyness with prices? It’s because they are significantly more expensive than the rest of the market – Dignity by 83% compared to prices on our site. If they were to put transparent, easily comparable prices online, consumers might realise this price differential and take their business elsewhere.

Dignity are, in my view, the worst offenders – because not only do they hide their prices, they also hide their name. When they buy up independent funeral directors, they don’t rebrand them as Dignity. Instead they keep the old family name above the door, so that consumers don’t realise that the branch has become part of a corporate. They simply swap out the staff, put the prices up and no-one’s the wiser.

Here at Beyond, we believe that Dignity’s business practice and model are unsustainable. We think it has been propping up its share price with unearned price increases and self-defeating acquisitions for years. That it is a house built on sand, with a tsunami on the horizon.

We’ve published a detailed analysis on their business

Now, I hear you say, it’s easy to make a few disparaging comments about a £1.3bn market cap company. Especially a company who could be seen as a competitor. So, to that end, I offer you two tokens of our conviction.

Firstly, today we publish a 13,000-word analysis of Dignity PLC entitled “The Reaper Calls For Dignity” written by my co-founder James Dunn. Within the report he examines Dignity’s business in detail, using both publicly available information and our market expertise to make a clear case that they are grossly overvalued.

And we’re shorting Dignity’s stock

Secondly, we are so confident of their failings that we have taken a short position on Dignity stock to the tune of £50,000. To clarify, we have placed Beyond’s money (and some of our own) on the belief that Dignity’s share price will fall. I’m not sure this is traditional business practice or expenditure for a start-up. Then again, I’m not sure there has been another such market where a large incumbent has escaped even the lightest of scrutiny.

We’ve been in the funeral industry for a couple of years now and one of the key things that has stood out to me is that, notwithstanding the many genuine people trying their hardest to serve the consumer, there is an entrenched fear of rocking the boat; of calling out the elephants in the room. Despite the constant public consternation at funeral price cost rises, there is little desire from the industry associations or the media to call out the big guys and their opaque practices, which drive up prices and bring the overall industry into disrepute.

Well, today Dignity PLC, here’s us calling you out.

Best

Ian

P.S. Dignity CEO Mike McCollum recently sold most of his shares – we wonder why?

 

*Previously Funeralbooker

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5 Comments

  1. Will read the detailed report with interest, thanks. I couldn’t agree more with the fear of ‘rocking the boat’. As a team of over 30 celebrants, we have been trying to challenge the outrageous prices for years but all this has meant is that FDs won’t use our team, a form of blacklisting going on for anyone who will speak out about it. I would be happy to share a several pieces of info with you.

  2. Brian Howard B M &C Howard Funeral Services. I will send you a copy of a letter that I wrote to the local press and MP Mr I Duncan Smith then minister of the DWP in 2013, there was quite a few letters sent during 2012 and 2013 concerning the Social Funeral Fund, Dignity, Co-op, and the NAFD. The problem with Dignity, Co-op funeral care, and other funeral groups are backed up by the NAFD which is just puppet and not fit for purpose.

  3. Dignity stock fallen from £22 at time of article to under £10 today.

    classic case of a business that has enjoyed high margins but is vulnerable as the higher priced service offered does not add value to the customer.

  4. Only just discovered this website. What an excellent and accurate piece of research. Well done. Whether or not it was your intention, you’ve benifited society as a whole. Thank you.

  5. Amazing that Dignity’s share price has recovered a little after an initial 20% drop in the in the light of the Competition and Markets Authority investigations into the funeral market – you’d have though the only way was down!

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CMA Report Calls for Price Transparency 0

Many of our regular readers will know by now that the CMA’s interim report landed late last week.

It’s clear from the contents that the government have validated what we’ve all been saying on behalf of families and independent funeral directors for the last few years. Specifically that:

  • The large chains have preyed on bereaved families with excessive price hikes in both funeral director and crematorium fees, as well as failing to provide clarity of ownership.
  • The NAFD has failed consumers, specifically that it has ‘fallen short’ and may have been ‘detrimental to competition’. Particularly that it has taken a position on websites like Beyond that’s ‘ambiguous at best’ and that it risks ‘distorting the market’ by its actions.

We’re delighted that hardworking independent funeral directors who publish their pricing online are going to be rewarded by the CMA, while those who deliberately make their prices difficult to discover are taken to task.

We’ll be doing our part, too. We’ll be supporting all the independent funeral directors signed up to our service so that they can be sure they’re meeting any recommendations from the CMA on comparable price transparency, simply by being on our website. We’ve also got a bundle of free services coming for our partners in the New Year.

If you’re not yet signed up with us, but you’d like to join the thousands of funeral directors on our site who are doing their bit towards price transparency in this industry, why not make an account today? We’d love to have you with us.

There are no monthly fees, and our funeral finance, free wills and estate administration services are there to help you offer the families to help complete, well-rounded support. Simply give us a call on 0800 044 9454 and we’ll get you set up in a matter of minutes, or build your free business profile here.

Beyond ‘Let’s Talk About Death’ Campaign Wins Drum Award 0

Beyond win Drum Out of Home Awards

Season’s greetings!

Celebrations are underway at the Beyond office this week, as we’ve been given an early Christmas present: a prestigious marketing award!

Our summer ‘Let’s Talk About Death’ campaign has won the Drum Creative Out of Home Award in the ‘Viral’ category, with the judges praising our success in driving a conversation about death against the odds.

Let’s talk about death…

Released mid-July, our ‘Let’s Talk About Death’ campaign used a little black humour to break through the silence that surrounds anything death-related. You can check out all of the ads here.

Rejected by TFL, the ‘Let’s Talk About Death’ campaign found new life on social media. The ‘banned’ ads were then quickly picked up by press across the world. We appeared in print, on TV and on the radio, sparking an energetic debate about whether and how we should talk about funeral services.

As we’ve said before, we couldn’t be more delighted with the results of this campaign. We strongly believe that to drive positive change in this industry – whether that be price transparency, or a better approach to after life services overall – we as a society need to be talking about death.

This campaign achieved that. And, as an added bonus, thousands of people have created their will online with us for free, raising several hundred thousand pounds for charity through legacy gifts.

Beyond win Drum Out of Home Award 2018Our CEO, Ian Strang, has this to say:

“When something is taboo, as with death, it creates an environment where bad actors can operate. And our fear of engaging on the subject – creating that shared code of silence – allows predators to rip us off. We pay too much for funerals, funeral plans and wills because we don’t feel able to shop around.

“Following the controversy, we were overwhelmed by the support we received from the public and this award gives a further stamp of approval from the advertising industry to our campaign.”

Thank you for your support

As gratifying as awards are, the most rewarding outcome from this campaign has been the support we’ve received both from those in the industry and the general public.

We’ve heard from independent funeral directors, who appreciated that only by breaking the silence around funerals could we advocate for those in this industry who offer the best value and service to their customers.

We’ve also heard from non-profits – those who campaign for the same fairness and transparency we aim to provide.

And we’ve heard from bereaved people themselves, who stood up for us and fought for their right to know that services like ours exist. This support has meant the world to us.

In the end, 76% of those who saw our ads agreed that they didn’t deserve to be hidden away: that a conversation about death is a conversation worth having. To all those people, thank you. And let’s keep that conversation going.