Hotels aren’t the only businesses that buy linens, paper towels, and cleaning supplies. Funeral parlors need many of the same products. So hospitality industry supplies cataloger American Hotel Register, which last year had flat sales of $375 million, is hoping to rev up revenue with its American Funeral Supplies spin-off catalog.
Vernon Hills, IL-based American Hotel Register dropped the debut edition of American Funeral Supplies in April, mailing to 28,000 funeral homes, cemeteries, and related businesses. Senior vice president of merchandising John Roth believes that the mailing reached the lion’s share of players in the industry. American Hotel rented names for about 95% of the mailing, with customers of its core catalog accounting for the other 5%.
The American Funeral spin-off didn’t require a major cash outlay, Roth says. In terms of catalog creative, the company modified its existing flyers and catalogs. “We remerchandised the front and back covers,” Roth says, replacing items such as irons and coffee makers with funeral registries and folding chairs. “Otherwise our core products are the same.” Of the more than 37,000 SKUs offered in the new book, all but about 200 funeral-industry-related products are also available in the core catalog. Among the new funeral products offered are memorial books, flags, medical instruments, and protective garments.
Response to the new book has been “pretty close to what we expected,” Roth says. Average order size is about $300. The core catalog pulls average orders of more than $1,000 from large hotel chains and of less than $150 from smaller inns.
The company has no immediate plans to sell larger funeral-related products, such as caskets. “There’s no reason we couldn’t sell caskets, because for the most part the casket market is primarily sold direct,” Roth says. “Casket guys call on funeral and cemetery guys directly. But a certain amount goes through brokers and rep firms. So at this time, caskets aren’t part of our plan.”