9 Businesses That Thrive in Recessions (2024)

Recessions are difficult times for most individuals and businesses. Some people suffer financially, and even more worry that they might become subject to the negative aspects of an economic slowdown.

But for a select group of professionals and companies, a recession may actually be an opportunity to thrive and grow. Here are nine examples.

Key Takeaways

  • Not all businesses and industries feel the same pain during economic downturns.
  • In fact, some businesses benefit as consumers cut back on substitute products and other competing options.
  • Such companies may offer cheaper alternatives to luxuries or discretionary purchases.
  • Other businesses that do well during recessions provide the consumer staples that are needed by most people and which they must continue to buy.
  • There are also fundamental services that consumers can't do without, even in hard times.

1. Accountants

No matter what the economy is like, individuals and businesses have to pay taxes and keep their finances in order. In fact, these responsibilities can be even more important in tougher economic times.

Accountants are likely to experience an increase in business during a recession. That's because many people and small businesses may require the help of a professional to ensure that they're making use of all the tax benefits available to them. They may need professional guidance that ensures that they have a clear understanding of their income and expenditures as cash flow tightens.

Also, it has become common for new government benefit programs, loan guarantees, and financial regulations to be rolled out, updated, or expanded during recessions and other economic crises.

Accountants can help people understand and navigate the new requirements and benefits of these changes for their businesses and personal finances.

At the very worst, some people may require the services of an accountant if they're forced to file for bankruptcy.

2. Healthcare Providers

If any industry can be said to be recession-proof, it's healthcare. People get sick in good times and bad, so the healthcare industry isn't likely to have the same level of cutbacks or job losses that other less essential businesses may experience.

3. Financial Advisors and Economists

People who have substantial assets or assets crucial to their well-being, regardless of amount or size, want to ensure that their money and property are well taken care of, especially during a recession.

Financial advisors often see an increase in demand for their work as people become concerned about the stability of their investments and seek guidance on how to protect their assets.

Beyond matters of personal finance, individuals and businesses seek advice and insight regarding current and future economic trends or paths to recovery. Economists often see a massive increase in demand for their services as the general public, businesses, and government policy makers grapple with the recession.

Consultants, government policy advisors, and even media personalities may also find opportunities to market their expertise during uncertain economic times.

Economic Uncertainty

When the future of the economy is in doubt, demand for financial and economic advice from a range of professionals goes up.

4. Auto Repair and Maintenance

In tough economic times, people are less likely to purchase a new car. Instead, they'll repair their current car. Auto repair and maintenance shops rake in the cash during a recession, when people will fork over a few hundred dollars on repairs to avoid a monthly payment on a car loan.

However, there have been counterexamples in recent recessions, such as the Cash for Clunkers program instituted during the Great Recession, which spurred a modest spike in new car sales.

5. Home Maintenance Stores

Many people will choose a do-it-yourself (DIY) home renovation or upgrade rather than consider selling and moving during a recession. Depending on credit conditions, borrowing to buy a new home is usually not an option for most people during a recession.

Companies in the business of providing tools and materials for home improvement, maintenance, and repair projects are likely to see stable or even increasing demand during a recession. So do many appliance repair service people.

New home builders, though, do not get in on the action. They are among the worst hit as bank lending gets tighter, demand for new homes dries up, and home sales slump.

Do It Yourself

When economic times are tough, DIY activities of all sorts increase. This effect may be even more pronounced during periods of imposed social distancing and forced business closures.

6. Home Staging Experts

It can be difficult to sell a home during a recession, but some people have to do it. People who specialize in home staging thrive as the housing market becomes increasingly competitive.

Home staging specialists might be real estate agents or interior design professionals, or both. A staging expert increases the appeal of a home—and the likelihood of a sale—by furnishing and decorating it to look its best to potential buyers.

7. Rental Agents and Property Management Companies

People who may not be able to afford to buy a home during a recession, and people who were forced to sell for financial reasons, still need a place to live. The answer for many, at least in the short term, is a rental.

Rental agents, landlords, and property management companies can thrive during a recession, when renting is likely to become a more appealing housing option.


Recessions often lead to an increase in shared living arrangements such as people moving in with parents or extended family members.

8. Grocery Stores

For many, dining out during a recession becomes a financial extravagance at a time when money may be short. Supermarkets often see an increase in sales as people choose to cook more meals at home and even entertain their friends at home more often.

9. Bargain and Discount Stores

People cut back on luxuries during a recession, but that doesn't mean they avoid spending on items that aren't strictly necessary. There's even a tongue-in-cheek economic theory called the Lipstick Index, which argues that sales of cosmetics will always rise during bad times because they're a relatively affordable luxury.

When a recession reduces sources of income or threatens livelihoods, people look for less expensive products, whether they are discretionary or not. Importantly, for products considered staples—those items needed every day by individuals—bargain and discount stores offer solutions.

Bargain and discount stores see a great deal of traffic in a tough economy. People from all economic classes, including those who otherwise would never step into a dollar store, rethink their shopping habits when a recession hits.

How Can I Invest in Rental Properties As a Recession Opportunity?

You can start by investigating real estate investment trusts (REITs). REITs invest in multiple structures and holdings that may perform better in tough times. In particular, you may want to focus on rental real estate, where rental income is stable and perhaps high, given the need for people to have a roof over their head after they've sold their previous dwelling.

How Can I Invest in the Healthcare Sector?

Consider exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that contain a variety of healthcare holdings, from hospital companies to medical supply companies. Diversity is key, as some sectors—for example, elective surgeries—will likely underperform due to recessionary conditions.

How Can I Take Advantage of the Turn to Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Products and Retailers?

Look into an ETF that covers the home improvement sector, with investments in companies such as The Home Depot, Inc. (HD) or Lowe's Companies, Inc. (LOW). Beware of any home building companies, such as Lennar Corporation (LEN) or Hovnanian Enterprises, Inc. (HOV), which are likely to bear the brunt of any downturn as new home sales slump during a recession.

The Bottom Line

Not every company is affected to the same degree by an economic downturn. On the one hand, some companies and sectors that are reliant on household disposable income may suffer during a recession as households tighten their belts and reduce discretionary purchases. But on the other hand, some businesses will thrive, or at least not suffer as much as the rest of the market.

Among the latter group are companies that provide basic necessities and can be seen as recession-proof compared to the rest of the market. Companies that cater to low-cost spending, such as dollar stores or DIY home improvement stores, can actually retain a positive outlook.

For investors, ETFs that cover recession-proof sectors may offer attractive returns and diversify your holdings at the same time.

9 Businesses That Thrive in Recessions (2024)
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