Batesville to Close Wood Casket Assembly Plant in Mississippi
Batesville spokesperson Teresa Gyulafia confirmed the company’s decision to close its smaller wood manufacturing plant in Panola County, MS in March of 2017, as the company adapts to shifts in consumer preferences and a steady decline in demand for burial caskets as more families choose cremation. Production will continue at the plant until the time of closing in March.
“This was a very difficult decision because of its impact to people who are part of the Batesville family,” said Chris Trainor, Batesville president. “Our industry is changing. Every year there are fewer burials, requiring fewer caskets. As a manufacturer, we must continue to align our resources with demand to ensure that we produce and deliver the products that today’s consumers prefer.”
The death care industry has undergone a number of changes over the past few decades that put added pressure on both manufacturers and funeral professionals. In 2016, less than 50 percent of families in North America will choose burial for their loved one, a decline of almost 15 percent over the past decade. Although there are geographic differences, the majority of those will purchase a metal casket.
As the largest supplier of caskets to licensed funeral homes, the vast majority of Batesville’s casket sales are metal, which are all produced at award-winning manufacturing plants in the U.S. The company employs more than 2400 associates across the U.S. and will continue to have a footprint in Vicksburg, MS, where it operates a wood processing plant that cures raw lumber and produces components for all of its wood caskets.
“We studied this from every angle, and there is simply not enough demand at this point to support three dedicated wood manufacturing plants,” Trainor continued. Batesville is not the first casket manufacturer to face this decision. In recent months, at least two other companies in the industry have announced changes in their wood manufacturing operations.
Gyulafia confirmed that workers at the Panola plant were notified about the company’s decision on November 3, 2016. She noted that all impacted associates are eligible for severance and other support, including job placement and outreach services, but reiterated that the plant will continue to operate until March of 2017.
Trainor stated, “We have a talented and committed team at the Panola plant and will do all we can in the coming months to support and assist them in this transition.” This includes working with state and federal resources to provide comprehensive support.
This decision does not impact any of its other operations and will be seamless to the company’s funeral home customers. Batesville will continue to produce the highest quality products at its 4 world-class manufacturing facilities in Batesville, IN, Chihuahua, MX, Manchester, TN, and Vicksburg, MS.