published Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Walmart offers caskets, urns at Web site


by Brian Lazenby
  • photo
    (AP Photo/WalMart.com) In this screen shot taken from WalMart.com, a casket for sale on the Wal-Mart Web site is shown. Wal-Mart quietly put up about 15 caskets and dozens of urns on its Web site last week.

From diapers to funeral supplies, Walmart has everything the American consumer needs from birth to death.

The nation's largest retailer has begun selling caskets and cremation urns on the company's Web site, but area funeral homes claim they are not worried about being undercut in price.

Ed English, managing partner at Lane Funeral Home on Ashland Terrace, said a number of companies already have been selling caskets and funeral supplies online.

"No, we're not worried about it at all," he said. "I believe in a free and open market system."

Cade Williamson, owner of Legacy Funeral Home in Soddy-Daisy, agreed.

"I've looked at them, and they are really not priced all that much different," Mr. Williamson said. "In fact, some of the ones they have are more than ours."

Mr. English said Lane Funeral Home sells more than 20 caskets within Walmart's price range.

Walmart's Web site lists 14 caskets that start at $895. All are less than $2,000 except for the Sienna Bronze Casket which lists for $2,899.

The company also offers a variety of styles of cremation urns. A child or infant urn lists for $99.99, while the Web site advertises dozens of adult-sized urns ranging from $140 to $242. Walmart also sells several styles of pet urns that range from about $59 to $79.

Mr. Williamson said his funeral home sells caskets starting at about $700 but they can go as high as $12,000, depending upon what the customer wants.

Also, most area funeral homes offer something Walmart can't, Mr. Williamson said.

"I put my emphasis on service, not on price," he said. "That's what sets us apart from Walmart."

Walmart's caskets come from Star Legacy Funeral Network Inc., a company based in McHenry, Ill., that sells the same caskets for about the same price -- some less -- on its site, along with many others.

Star Legacy CEO Rick Obadiah said the response in the first week has been better than the company or Walmart expected, though he declined to give specifics.

A spokesman for Walmart.com also declined to release sales figures and downplayed the venture, but Walmart spokesman Ravi Jariwala wrote in an e-mail that numerous other online retailers offer funeral supplies.

"We are simply conducting a limited beta test to understand customer response," he wrote.

But Mr. Obadiah said it is not simply a test. He said more than 200 Star Legacy products, including pet urns and memorial jewelry, and eventually about two dozen caskets, will be sold at walmart.com. The company also supplies similar types of products to online retailer Overstock.com and urns to Walmart competitor CostCo.

Caskets from Walmart are guaranteed to ship within 48 hours, and federal law requires funeral homes to accept third-party caskets.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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fftspam said...

Not too many years ago local funeral directors shut down an operation selling discounted caskets because it was illegal for anyone who is not a funeral director to sell them.

Dig into your own archives TFP... the story is there. Does the Federal law trump the TN state law? Is the Federal law new?

October 31, 2009 at 12:39 a.m.
Tax_Payer said...

Federal Law does trump state law. I wonder what the return policy is on a casket anyway. I pine box is fairly cheap, but they don't look good during the showing.

October 31, 2009 at 8:21 a.m.
imogene72 said...

What next Walmart? I think they have gone far enough taking away from local businesses. Are they going to sell them in bulk also?

October 31, 2009 at 10:36 a.m.
una61 said...

I logged on to my WalMart account and discovered me wife had put one in my Wish List. Should I be worried?

October 31, 2009 at 9:39 p.m.
Lightnup said...

Not really sure I want to get my prescriptions filled at a place that has more profit potential in my dying than my getting well.

:-)

October 31, 2009 at 11:15 p.m.
chuckyklost13 said...

Funerals cost way too much today and it’s not right that you should take such a hard hit on your wallet after you lose a loved one. I recently lost someone in my family and shopped around for some caskets and found great prices on www.starlegacynetwork.com>

briansparks0211 said...

Great article! You can buy online caskets directly from http://www.starlegacynetwork.com/caskets.htm and they can go to your funeral home.

October 13, 2010 at 2:41 p.m.
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