Sales of caskets have been declining for years as more people choose cremation. But the economic slump is compounding the industry's woes as those who do pick caskets buy cheaper, more spartan accommodations for the hereafter.
In response, casket makers are diversifying, building less expensive models and expanding cremation offerings. The country's biggest casket maker, Hillenbrand Inc., parent of Batesville Casket, is going outside the funeral business altogether. Earlier this year it said it would spend $435 million to buy K-Tron International Inc., which makes factory equipment.