10 Recession-proof Businesses

The old saw about consumers spending more on vices during recessions is not true. People tend to cut back on their cigarette and alcohol purchases. iStock/Thinkstock

The traditional logic is that sin wins when the economy loses. Like candy, cigarette sales skyrocketed during the Great Depression, and tobacco stocks are still a smart buy in any recession [source: Gibbons].

But in contrast to popular wisdom, people tend to spend less on so-called sin industries like alcohol and cigarettes during recessions. The reason, some experts say, is not that people stop indulging during lousy times, but that they cut back some or downgrade the quality of their favorite vice.

For example, the National Restaurant Association reported that wine sales "by the glass" rose sharply as whole bottle sales slumped in 2008. And the Beer Institute said that beer sales in restaurants dropped in 2008, while wholesale beer sales from cheaper stores went up [source: Cohn].

Tattoo parlors, on the other hand, boom through both recession and recovery. According to a Harris poll, one in five Americans (21 percent) had a tattoo in 2012, up from 14 percent in 2008 [source: Harris Interactive]. People get tattoos during recessions because they are a relatively cheap way to express yourself creatively and boost self-confidence. On the flip side, tattoo removal services also boom during a recession as laid-off workers erase conspicuous ink to appear more professional in interviews [source: Berlin].