19 Recession Proof Businesses – Small Business Trends14 min read
Recent world events have been leading us towards a recession for a while now and economic predictions suggest it will arrive sooner rather than later. This is bad news for a lot of businesses, but not all business ideas are at risk of an economic downturn.
To be recession proof means that your business continues to thrive even while other industries are cutting costs or laying people off. It also means preparing for a recession.
19 Amazing Recession Proof Business Ideas
A recession proof business can be very profitable for people both during the good times and the bad. No matter what state the economy or the stock market is in, certain business ideas such as those listed below all stand a great chance of continuing to prosper amidst all the other financial doom and gloom.
There are even many famous or historically successful businesses that were started during recessions. Disney was founded at the beginning of the Great Depression in the late 1920s, while the Hewlett and Packard electronics company started work in the next recession that followed in the late 1930s.
The best recession proof businesses listed below have much less to fear from rising interest rates and a fluctuating GDP than most other businesses, with many having the potential to actually do even more business than usual.
1. Food and Beverage Business
The food and beverage industry is one of the most recession proof industries due to the fact that everyone still needs food and drinks to live. It is not a luxury that can be put aside during difficult times, so businesses in this sector can continue to do well even during a recession.
The food retail industry includes all foodstuffs sold at grocery and convenience stores, drug stores, mass merchandisers and foodservice facilities. Between 1992 and 2019, the total sales of these food retail services in the US topped $6.22 trillion, so there is clearly money to made in this industry.
Let’s look at some particular food business ideas and why they are able to thrive during a recession.
Candy Sales: Comfort foods might be considered a luxury by some, but their relatively inexpensive cost for the brief pleasure they provide for consumers keeps their popularity high even during hard times. One of the most famous treats in the entire candy industry, Mars Bars, was even invented during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Grocery stores: The smaller grocery and convenience stores can often see an upturn in customer numbers during a recession as some people try to reduce their spending by shopping at smaller stores instead of the large superstores.
Food Delivery: There is a large number of people who simply don’t like cooking, but eating out regularly may not be financially sensible during a recession. This particular customer demographic can help food delivery services do well during an economic downturn.
A Vending Machine Business: This business model is all about providing the daily necessities of life including snacks and beverages. Another benefit of a vending machine is that it can be moved to a high traffic area should sales decrease in its original spot.
Fast Food: The fast food industry attracts a lot of stock investors not only because of its tendency to boom during good times, but also because of its historic sturdiness during economic downturns.
Dollar Stores: Many people will rethink their shopping habits during a recession, and that’s how business owners like those running a dollar store offering cheaper alternatives will thrive.
2. Healthcare Services
The healthcare industry continues to grow even during recessions due to a combination of rising demand and the constant advancement of science and medicine.
There will always be a need for certain healthcare services, with some in particular tending to increase in demand during harder times.
Here are three recession proof healthcare services to consider.
Working with Seniors: Aging populations always require care regardless of the economic situation. This is especially true today as the ‘baby boomer’ generation moves into old age. There are a lot of older people today who own property, are financially comfortable, and can easily afford the care they need during their golden years.
Contraceptives: This is another healthcare service that is always in demand, but especially so during a recession. This is because recessions often put a couple’s plans to start a family on hold. The many contraceptives services available will help them to plan their family according to the state of their finances.
Pharmaceuticals: Most demand for pharmaceutical healthcare is relatively inflexible. Such necessary treatments are not particularly price sensitive, nor can they often be put off until a more financially stable time.
3. Pet Care Business
With total sales of over $103 billion in 2020, the US pet industry is currently breaking records with its rising popularity. That number, published by the American Pet Products Association, was an increase of 6.7% on the 2019 figures.
Growth is currently predicted to continue at a rate of 5.8% through 2021, though the historical average yearly growth of 3% to 4% still makes the US pet industry an interesting business proposition, even during a recession.
The following pet care services will always be in demand.
Veterinary Services: The beloved pets of Americans still need care regardless of what the economy is doing, so veterinary services generally remain unaffected by recessions.
Grooming Services: Pet ownership has greatly increased thanks to the millennial generation who are buying more pet animals than previous generations. Market research company Mintel discovered 40% of Americans aged between 30 and 49 are highly interested in pet care such as grooming services.
Essential Pet Products: The same research revealed that over half of Americans in their 30s own a type of cat, with three-quarters of the same age group owning dogs. As pet ownership increases, essential pet care products will only rise in demand.
4. Renovation and Repair Industry including Plumber, Utility Services, and Auto Repair Services
The home renovation and repair industry includes a number of essential services that remain recession proof. With home improvement expenditure in the US well over $400 billion each year, it is a industry with lots of potential for success.
Here are some good business ideas that continue to be in demand even during recessions.
Plumbing: When there is a plumbing emergency at home or work, it is just not possible to wait for a more financially stable period to get it fixed.
Auto Repair Services: Many people are reliant on their cars and trucks to get from home to work and cannot afford to be without a vehicle, so auto mechanics will continue to be in demand during a recession.
Equipment Repair and Maintenance Services:Any business reliant on particular equipment will need access to a repair and maintenance service. For example, office workers are not usually equipped with the skills to repair a printer, so they will need to call in the right people if they have a problem.
Home Repair: Most people are also not skilled at home repairs so when an issue arises, experts with the skill and knowledge will be required regardless of the state of the economy.
Utilities: Home utilities such as water, gas and electricity are absolutely necessary at all times, so businesses who work in these areas can still thrive during hard times.
5. Real Estate and Property Management
Recessions can actually be good for the real estate and property management sector, as it is often the best time to invest in property.
As real estate includes any property consisting of land and the buildings on it, ultimately it is an industry with an essential and very valuable product.
The MSCI’s statistics for 2019/20 showed the US real estate industry to be worth $9.6 trillion, so there is serious money to be made selling a home or business premises even during a recession.
Property Stagers: Professional property stagers help a seller make a quick sale and maximize their property price. This is why it is such a valuable job that will always be in demand.
Real Estate Agencies: The knowledge, network and experience required in the job of selling properties is not something ordinary folks have, so real estate agencies are in a good position to continue doing well during a recession.
A Rental Agent Business: Recessions can be a good time for the wealthy to invest in properties, but the not so wealthy still somewhere to live. Rental agents should always be able to find a sizable amount of tenants needing a home and businesses needing office space to cater to.
6. Baby Products Business
While many people make adjustments to their spending during a recession, spending on their children is not where they tend make the sacrifices. Historically, products for babies continue to sell well during economic downturns as families look to reduce spending in other areas.
Entrepreneurs moving into the baby products business could be very successful, as the industry is projected to massively increase in value over the next few years.
The baby care products market was estimated to be worth over $67 billion in 2020, with that set to rise to well over $88 billion by 2026.
7. Child Care
Similarly to the baby products business, the child care market has also grown in size and is set to continue. In 2019 the US child care industry was valued at $54.3 billion, and is projected to rise at a compound annual growth rate of 3.9% up to 2027.
As more and more mothers are empowered to continue their careers after child birth, the child care market will only increase in value.
8. Financial and Accounting Services
Accountancy and other financial information services will always be in demand during a recession. This is especially true nowadays as more and more complex laws and regulations are introduced each year.
It can be a very lucrative industry too, with the revenue of the US accounting industry forecast to have generated over $110 billion dollars during 2020 alone.
This sector endures because it is crucial for businesses to have their finances in order regardless of the state of the economy, so there are numerous financial and accounting services which continue to do well during hard times.
Tax Prep: The consequences of not declaring the right tax information is a serious matter, so businesses and wealthy individuals cannot afford to take risks with their tax prep.
Accounting Services: Astute business owners hire professional accounting services even during a recession as they can save the business money by ensuring everything is in order.
Financial Planning: Many wealthy individuals and organizations may seem content during a recession, but their fortunes can quickly diminish without proper financial planning using all available information.
Bookkeeping: Few business owners and entrepreneurs have sufficient bookkeeping skills and spare time to record their financial information correctly. It can be an exhaustingly time-consuming task for those lacking in bookkeeping experience, so hiring a specialist bookkeeper will continue to be a popular option.
9. Freelancing including Virtual Assistant, Writer and More
Freelancing has the potential to be one of the most recession-proof businesses in the world, even compared directly to many of the others on this list. Companies can save a lot of money by outsourcing certain tasks and activities to freelancers. This lets them pay for those tasks individually as and when they are needed rather than hiring a permanent employee.
Being a writer might conjure images of people writing editorials for the New York Times or the table of contents in a novel, but it is much more to do with creating content for all the business websites that need regular new content to stay relevant and improve their search engine ranking. Content creation, news articles, and other kinds of information content require a skilled writer.
Another popular option is that of a freelance virtual assistant who provides a variety of administrative services to different businesses and organizations from their own home.
10. Cleaning Companies
The state of the economy has absolutely no bearing on the many rules and regulations that commercial and public spaces are required to adhere to for hygiene and safety reasons.
For this reason alone, a cleaning service is recession proof and will continue to do good business during an economic downturn.
The list of organizations that require regular cleaning services include any and all medical and care facilities, stores and shopping centers, beauty salons and spas, restaurants and other hospitality venues, plus all recreational facilities and public spaces where people gather.
11. Tattoo Parlors
An interesting twist when compiling a list of recession proof businesses is the inclusion of the tattoo parlor.
It doesn’t seem to make sense on the face of it as tattoos must surely be considered a luxury item, but the fact remains that tattoo parlors continue to do well even during a recession.
It is probably because of the relative inexpensiveness of a tattoo compared to how long it lasts, plus getting ‘inked’ has been growing in popularity as each generation of people emerges.
12. Businesses Providing Retail Therapy
There are many items which are consumer staples such as toiletries whose sales remain steady during a recession. There are also several other types of retail which also does well even when the condition of the economy suggests people should be buying less.
Here are three more recession proof business ideas in the retail sector.
Luxury Retail: The consumers of this retail market are already wealthy and financially secure to begin with and will usually only be marginally affected by a recession. Businesses serving these customers can expect their sales to remain fairly consistent.
Discount Stores: At the other end of the financial spectrum are those people who are massively affected by recessions and need to make a lot of changes to their buying habits. A recession will typically see an influx of new customers to discount stores.
Pawn Shops: People who sell items to pawn shops often see them as an excellent short-term loan option, while buyers of pawn shop goods are attracted to the cheaper goods. Both of these types of customers ensures pawn shops do very well during recessions.
13. Courier Services
Courier services are a lot less vulnerable to economic slumps as there will always be a need to send packages locally, nationally and internationally.
A recession can even see courier services acquire new customers as businesses who usually deliver their own goods cut back on costs by outsourcing to one courier or another.
14. Beauty Business
The enduring success of the beauty industry as a recession proof business is actually far less to do with vanity than might be expected.
The ‘Lipstick Effect’ is a phenomenon where consumers continue to spend their money on small indulgences during recessions to compensate for the larger sacrifices they make. The name comes from the fact that it is especially applicable to the beauty industry.
Here are a couple of beauty businesses which continue to do well during a recession.
Nails: Manicures are inexpensive luxuries and their popularity doesn’t diminish during periods of financial difficulty.
Hair salons: Hairdressing has long been recognized as one of the very last expenditures people are willing to sacrifice to save money.
15. Technology Support
Computer and information technology jobs are expected to boom over the next few years.
The advancement of Big Data, cloud computing and security for the likes of credit cards means that technology support is a job with high recession resistance.
16. Funeral Services
The only certainties in life are… well, you know how it goes.
Recession or not, the need for a dignified last resting place after we reach the inevitable destination of all who journey through life will always be there.
Whether it is burial or cremation, the job of a funeral service will always be in demand regardless of the economy.
17. Staffing Agencies
There continues to be a lot to do for staffing agencies even when many companies are cutting costs and laying off staff.
Those cuts will be coming from industries heavily affected by a recession, but as you can see from this list, there are a lot of industries who thrive in such times and will continue to need more staff.
18. Education Businesses
Education and training courses are always in demand so a business providing such can continue to be successful during a recession.
A lot of people will be losing jobs and trying to retrain in another area which immediately boosts the amount of consumers available.
By providing education and training courses, either on site or at home, these kinds of businesses can actually thrive off a recession while simultaneously helping the country get back on its economic feet.
19. Digital Marketing
No matter what the economy is doing, digital marketing such as SEO, SEM, social media campaigns and email marketing will always be one of the most cost-effective ways reach new customers.
A recession will only magnify the low investment needed to generate more leads and conversions via a sound SEO strategy.
Digital marketing also provides a wealth of other benefits besides bringing in more customers. It is very flexible which allows a business to adapt to changing circumstances.
Is a recession a good time to start a business?
A recession can indeed be an excellent time to start a business as the costs can be much lower than starting one during a boom period.
Established suppliers, manufacturers and vendors that you may need to work with to start your business will be more likely to negotiate on their rates during a recession.
Getting started during a recession will also set your business up well for the long haul.
If you can get a business idea like those listed above up and running during an economic downturn then you will have a great chance of achieving even more success once the economy recovers.
What are the most recession proof businesses for Americans?
Healthcare will always be a recession proof industry as we simply cannot do without it. There are several different paths you can take from providing care for seniors or supplying pharmaceuticals. If you can get a healthcare business up and running then you will always have customers.
A cleaning business will also always have customers as there are so many laws and regulations which require organizations and public spaces to be kept clean for health and safety reasons. This goes for all kinds of business premises and areas open to the public, so this business idea can be very lucrative even during a recession.
With so many businesses operating online, the importance of digital marketing is only going to increase. Starting this kind of business opens up many opportunities which will still be there during a recession.
What products sell well during a recession?
The best products that in a recession are a mixture of those we can’t do without and those less expensive luxuries. Staple items such as certain foods, beverages and toiletries all continue to sell well during an economy.
Utilities like gas, electricity and water are all necessary too and businesses providing them will not be as affected as other small business owners during a recession.
Less expensive items such as premium cosmetics also sell well during a recession as consumers increase the amounts they buy to compensate for the larger financial sacrifices they are making.
How do you create a recession proof business?
Here are five steps you can take to make your company recession proof for job security.
1. Choose the right business: Starting the right kind of business that can do well despite being in a recession is obviously the first step to take.
2. Be adaptable: Small businesses and start-ups have to be adaptable to survive. They must be flexible with their plans and be able to pivot quickly in a new or innovative direction should the need or opportunity arrive.
3. Negotiate with vendors: Suppliers and manufacturers will be affected by a recession, so their rates will be up for negotiation. Use this opportunity to improve your bottom line.
4. Cash flow management: Avoid overspending by properly managing your cash flow. .
5. Listen to your customers: Listen to your customers’ needs and how they change according to the economic situation.
Which type of business is not recession proof?
There are some business ideas which are very prone to performing badly during a recession. These at risk business ideas include:
- Mid-market brands: Most mid-market brands are substitutable with cheaper alternatives, plus many of these companies will work in debt and cannot easily diversify into other markets.
- Bespoke startups: During a boom period, a start-up case that has a highly focused or niche idea can be brilliant, but if the idea itself is not recession proof then they can quickly run into trouble.
- Mid-range restaurants: While fast food, food delivery and inexpensive snacks can thrive in a recession, the mid-range level of high quality restaurants can suffer as their customer base are the ones restricting their spending by cooking more at home.
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