Recession-Proof Franchises

They're out there, and ready for you to take the reins.

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By Jeff Elgin

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It's no secret that people are losing their jobs-it's an epidemic. These talented people are simply victims of our current economic circumstances. Jobseekers won't find many attractive employment options in the market today, and this may be the situation for quite some time.

As an alternative, many people are looking into buying their own franchise. In tough times like these, it's essential to focus on franchises that produce good results in bad market conditions. Though no business is truly and absolutely recession-proof, a number of industries seem to thrive--and you should focus your research efforts on them. Here are some helpful examples of industries to look into:

People will buy, whether times are good or bad. What do people consider a necessity rather than a luxury? Businesses that provide necessities will thrive during a recession. One example: haircuts. Regardless of the economy, hair grows and has to be clipped. Another example is tax preparation: Everyone needs to file a tax return each year, and many people find the process too complicated to do themselves. Last is child care; Quality providers in this space always seem to be operating at near-capacity.

Low-cost businesses. Consumers tend to downgrade their spending patterns during a recession. This dynamic benefits fast-food companies such as McDonald's, at the expense of more upscale and expensive restaurants. Decreased spending patterns also benefit companies that sell used items (such as clothes, games, sports equipment, CDs, etc.), as an alternative to buying new items from a full-priced retailer.

Businesses paid for by third parties. When a pipe bursts and floods your basement, it has to be fixed immediately by a professional. This dynamic also applies to automotive repair shops: Cars get damaged in accidents in every type of economic climate, and they need to be fixed. In both cases, repair costs are covered by insurance so franchises offering such services tend to be more immune to recessionary times.

Products or services with a rapidly growing demand. Follow a demographic or sociological trend that supports strongly increasing demand, and the business will do very well even in tough times. A great example of this in today's market is the senior care industry. Baby boomers are getting older, and a host of senior-care franchises are growing rapidly and doing very well. Outplacement agencies, offering services designed to assist the unemployed are also expanding from growing demand.

Services that offer a chance to "escape" from the everyday grind. These businesses typically offer entertainment options to their customers, in the form of movies, games, treats, gifts or other indulgences. Beware, though: Decreased consumer spending habits can easily harm this category of business. So it's important to study past and present industry fluctuations before making an investment decision.

Children and pet services. The interesting thing about these services is that they violate some of the factors listed above. Good times or bad, people will spend large amounts of money providing for their kids or pets. These expenditures can be items that many would consider luxuries, breaking the cycle of leaning toward low-cost providers. Child-related franchises include supplemental education opportunities, featuring core learning as well as enrichment classes for art, music and sports. In the pet sector, groomers and sellers of boutique accessories will flourish, even during economic recessions.

It's pretty easy to distinguish unsuccessful businesses and franchises from successful ones in tough times, because the answer is often intuitively obvious. You hear about and see their failures on TV and in the newspaper. Stay away from them. You may find it helpful to consider a consultant from a company like FranChoice to steer you in the right direction. These seasoned professionals in the franchise market have a good grasp on which industries and companies are faring the best. They cannot make the decisions for you, but their services are free and often save you time by helping you narrow your search.

Regardless of how you research potential franchises, it's still essential for you to complete a thorough process of due diligence. The process of buying a franchise needs to include calling existing franchisees to verify or disprove the information you're receiving before making a final decision on any one franchise opportunity. Take all the time you need to ensure that you find a franchise that thrives during tough times, and you'll be one of the few who are happy with the economy in the upcoming recovery period.

Jeff Elgin

Jeff Elgin has almost 20 years of experience franchising, both as a franchisee and a senior franchise company executive. He's currently the CEO of FranChoice Inc., a company that provides free consulting to consumers looking for a franchise that best meets their needs.

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