THROWBACK THURSDAY: Costco Begins Test-Marketing Caskets in Chicago

{from “This Day in Business History” by Raymond L. Francis}

casket 2
“The President” casket available from Costco.

On this day in 2004, Costco Wholesale Corp. began test-marketing caskets in two Chicago stores, displayed next to mattresses. The profit potential was obvious, in light of the funeral industry’s reputation for high mark-up and bundled expenses. An official with the Casket and Funeral Supply Association speculated that overall funeral expenses would have to “rise to make up for lost profit” if funeral parlors lost market share to outside retailers in casket sales.

The experiment has been a success, with caskets being very well-reviewed. And while most people probably don’t realize that Costco sells caskets, it has an entire funeral category and sells caskets in most states. Beyond caskets, which cost $950 to $3,000, the company also sells a variety of urns.