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Clydebank Co-operative expands into Glasgow – and into Tesco

Traditionally low-key and reserved, the funeral homes sector in the west of Scotland is about to change tack as Clydebank Co-operative Funeral Society prepares to open a new facility within a branch of Tesco in Glasgow.

The funeral home – called Maryhill Funeral Services – inside the Tesco shopping centre in the Maryhill area of the city opened in December and marks a ground breaking change in direction for the funeral services sector in Scotland, according to Robert Sider (right), chief executive officer of Clydebank Co-operative. 

“Our funeral services division is one of our key growth areas but we need to modernise,” he said. “It’s an industry that hasn’t changed much over the years and we need to move away from the perception that funeral planning should take place in hushed tones in dark rooms.

“Yes, there are a lot of sensitivities to deal with and the industry must be respectful of people’s feelings at all times but funeral planning is an important business and, for us, a growing business so anything that’s going to make things easier for clients is good for them and for us.”

Robert admits that opening a funeral home within the footprint of a supermarket is likely to be deemed controversial but believes that giving the industry a more visible presence in communities will encourage people to talk openly about funerals and make plans for their own. 

“We’re expecting a few raised eyebrows from people popping into the supermarket to do their weekly shop but we see no reason why funerals should be a taboo subject,” he said. “With over 80 years’ experience of taking care of bereaved families in the Clydebank area, we’re confident that the Maryhill community will appreciate our efforts to make funerals and funeral planning easier for them. 

“While we’ll be right next to the main entrance of Tesco, our shop front will be both tasteful and subtle. There won’t be any hearses or coffins outside – funerals organised within the new premises will use private resting homes for viewing, our main hub in Hume Street, Clydebank or our Baldwin Avenue branch in Knightswood.”

In January 2013, Clydebank Co-operative experienced minor negative feedback when it opened a funeral advice centre within its department store in Clydebank, with access from both the store and Clydebank Shopping Centre. 

“Again, this was a completely different approach by a funeral business and we had a very small number of complaints from individuals who didn’t think it was appropriate to have an outlet like this in a shopping centre,” said Robert. “Since then, however, it has been well supported by local people and, because we’re not hiding away, it’s much easier for people to come into the centre, ask questions, look at our range of coffins, discuss costs and funeral plans, choose a memorial and so on. 

“We’ve also held well-attended sessions with a local solicitor whereby people can come along and get advice from a local solicitor on making a will, and ask our experts about everything from payment plans and funeral bonds to personalising their funeral.”

Ahead of opening the firm engaged with the local community, as well as with clergy and associated churches of all faiths within the area.

Clydebank Co-operative, one of only two independent co-operative societies in Scotland, currently plans and organises about 600 funerals each year. It accounts for 60%-70% of the funeral business in Clydebank but is keen to spread its reach outwith its home territory. New premises opened last year in Baldwin Avenue, Knightswood – next door to the company’s newest food outlet.

“The funeral home in Knightswood is performing well and has taken £94,000 this year,” said Robert. “We’re confident that the new convenience store next door will boost business and we have high hopes for the new Maryhill Funeral Services given its prime location on the ground floor of the Tesco building near other busy outlets including a post office, dentist and Cheque Centre.

“We’re not quite taking death onto the high street but we’re bringing down barriers and pushing boundaries – you need to do that in any business.”

part of its modernisation strategy, Clydebank Co-operative has introduced a quirky advertising campaign featuring James Bond-style posters using strap lines such as ‘You Only Live Once’. It is also looking to develop its website to make it more user-friendly and explore ways of communicating with clients, via email and text messaging, for example, and also social media.

“We must move with the times,” said Robert. “Our business is evolving and we see ourselves very much at the forefront of change within the funeral services sector.”

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