Page last updated at 03:29 GMT, Friday, 30 October 2009

Wal-Mart starts selling coffins

Mom Remembered Steel Casket (Wal-Mart website)
The caskets can be dispatched to buyers within 48 hours

The world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, now plans to hold on to customers even after they die - by selling coffins.

Prices range from a "Mom" or "Dad Remembered" steel coffin for $895 (£540), to a bronze model at $2,899.

The retailer is allowing customers to plan ahead by paying for the caskets over 12 months for no interest. They can be dispatched within 48 hours.

Catering for cradle-to-grave needs, Wal-Mart already sells everything from baby wear to engagement rings.

A spokesman for the supermarket giant, Ravi Jariwala, said the new coffin range was "a limited beta test to understand customer response".

The retailer is offering caskets at prices that undercut many funeral homes, say correspondents.

But an industry spokesman said it was not unduly concerned about Wal-Mart's move, because he said the firm could not offer bereaved families the human touch.

Pat Lynch, of the National Funeral Home Directors Association, told AP news agency: "There's no question in my mind as a funeral director for nearly 40 years that the most critical element is the human contact."

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