What Industries or Businesses Do Well During Recession?

There is a scene in Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life” where several guys are tied to crucifixes, and suddenly Eric Idle launches into the song, “Always look on the bright side of life.”   This is  my favorite part of the song:

If life seems jolly rotten
There’s something you’ve forgotten
And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
When you’re feeling in the dumps
Don’t be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle – that’s the thing.

And…always look on the bright side of life…
Always look on the light side of life…

For those looking to see the bright side of the recession and create their own job, the question that comes up in the current environment is “What products and services are people going to continue to buy during a recession?”

The following is a list of industries and businesses that are generally expected to see continued (if not increased) sales during a recession:

  • Funeral homes
  • Accountants (tax preparation, bankruptcy)
  • Health care (clinics, doctors)
  • Dry cleaning
  • Car insurance
  • Loan modification, loss mitigation and credit counseling
  • Rental real estate vs purchase real estate
  • Liquidators
  • Pawn shops
  • Flea markets, traders, classifieds
  • Discount retailers
  • Do It Yourself (DIY) industry for hardware, supplies and instruction for keeping up maintenance rather than replacing
  • Debt collection agencies
  • Education and training, as layoffs create need to prepare for alternative employment
  • Temporary staffing and contract employment services
  • Outplacement services
  • Rental and leasing firms, as companies have less cash for purchasing equipment
  • Resellers of just about anything used or refurbished
  • Equipment repair
  • Home maintenance
  • Auto repair and maintenance , as people will tend to put off purchasing a new car
  • Automotive parts suppliers
  • Lottery, alcohol and tobacco
  • Grocery stores, as people will tend to eat out less

From a statistical perspective, Sageworks, a company that specializes in financial analysis of private companies has published data for 2008 which listed the sales growth for the top 30 privately held businesses, which provides another perspective on what companies may do well in a recession:

Top Performing Industries by Sales Growth

They also published data on a subset of retail industries to highlight sales trends:
Sales Declines in 5 Small Retail Industries - 2008
Sales Declines in 5 Small Retail Industries – 2008

And they also published data on the top 10 most profitable industries as measured by net profit margin:

Top 10 Most Profitable Small Businesses - 2008
Top 10 Most Profitable Small Businesses - 2008

“Following the money” is more important now then ever before.   To that point, a Silicon Valley start-up  called RiseSmart recently raised $3 million in first-round funding in a bid to outwit the traditional outplacement industry.  RiseSmart is focused on providing what have traditionally been “high end” outplacement services (for job seekers looking for $100K+ jobs) to a wider market by using technology to streamline the service delivery costs and market price.

If you are looking to create your own opportunities in the challenging economic environment, you might want to take a look at the work on Business Ecosystems.

If you have an established business and are wondering what actions you can take to survive and prosper, please take a look at this blog entry.


3 thoughts on “What Industries or Businesses Do Well During Recession?

  1. Pingback: Off-shoring for Small Business - Here to Stay or Passing Fad? « Brian Hurley’s Blog

  2. Pingback: Great Depression Unemployment versus 2009 and the Coming Storm? « Brian Hurley’s Blog

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