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Annual loss for funerals group

Funeral firm Dignity,which has its headquarters at Sutton Coldfield, has notched up heavy losses after battling higher costs and as more people opt for lower-cost funeral services.

Emstrey Crematorium and Cemetery at Shrewsbury

The business, which operates crematoria in the West Midlands, reported a pre-tax loss of £328.6 million over 2022, compared with a profit of £32m the year before.

Increased competition in the market, changes in its pricing strategy and the introduction of cheaper funeral services including direct cremations have dragged on the firm's financial performance.

Inflation has also pushed up costs for the group, including staff wages and energy costs.

The firm said it had made the decision to make some some staff redundant in January as it restructures its local branches.

Its more than 800 funeral director locations include Jennings in the Black Country, Newport and District Funeral Directors in Newport, Shropshire, and funeral directors in Staffordshire and Worcestershire.

Its 46 crematoria include Birmingham at Perry Barr, Lichfield, Shrewsbury’s Emstrey, Telford and Wyre Forest at Stourport-on-Severn. The group also operates 24 cemeteries.

Dignity was swept up by a group of investors linked to its former chief executive in a deal worth around £281m in January.

The group said becoming a private company was the "best way forward" for Dignity given the challenges it faces and the "significant development work needed."

The offer remains conditional on, among other things, regulatory approval.

Chief executive Kate Davidson said the firm remains "alive to the factors and ongoing challenges" that have "inevitably" impacted its financial performance over the last year.

The average revenue for funerals fell from £2,394 in 2021 to £2,116 in 2022, Dignity said.

It saw its total underlying revenue decline by 13 per cent to £270.5m from £312m in 2021.

It followed the firm introducing cheaper funeral options, meaning it makes less money from them while inflation has pushed up the cost of delivering them.

It also noted a drop in the number of deaths in 2022 – which the funeral business is heavily impacted by – to 639,000 from 664,000, following post-Covid fluctuations in the UK's death rate.

Ms Davidson added: "Throughout a challenging year we have remained focused on our long-term aims and have confidence that our strategy will deliver sustainable growth and the highest standards of care and service to our customers."

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