Coronavirus: Profits at funeral firm Dignity fall even as deaths rise

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
The number of deaths in the UK rose 1% in the first three months of the year to 161,000. (Getty)

Profits at funeral provider Dignity (DTY.L) fell in the first quarter even as the number of deaths in the UK climbed, with the coronavirus pandemic prompting mourners to opt for “simple” funeral services.

Some 20% of the funerals it provided in the first three months of its financial year were “simple” services, while Dignity said that it had temporarily decided to withdraw the provision of limousines due to the pandemic.

The firm said that the proportion of simple funerals had climbed to 60% in April and that the average income from each funeral service was currently 17% lower than normal.

Underlying profits at Dignity fell to £19.4m ($24.1m) in the first quarter, down from £21.7m during the same period in 2019.

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The decline came even as the number of deaths in the UK rose 1% in the first three months of the year, to 161,000.

More than 30,000 people have now died from coronavirus in the UK, with the majority of deaths occurring in April.

Last month, the number of deaths in a single week in England and Wales hit a 20-year high, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Dignity said it was “possible” that a higher number of deaths in 2020 could see a fall-off in deaths in 2021 and 2022, but noted that it would not “speculate” on the most likely outcome.

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“COVID-19 is presenting a unique set of challenges for the UK as a whole and for Dignity. I am proud to be part of a business that has such an important role to play during this crisis,” said Clive Whiley, executive chairman of Dignity.

“I am particularly thankful to all our staff who have adapted quickly in these times of uncertainty to help our clients remember their loved ones in as personal a way as possible with the restrictions in place,” he said.

“They, together with all those working in the funeral industry, are an easily forgotten subset of key workers who all deserve our thanks.”