What Sells In A Sluggish Economy?

The unemployment rate is still high and the global economy is still in early recovery mode yet the number of web stores is still growing. Are these new online merchants crazy or do they know something others don’t?

Many people ask, “What is the best home business opportunity or what is the best Internet business to get into?” Maybe they have been asking the wrong questions. We’ll try to point out what the right questions are in this article. Most successful merchants aren’t geniuses. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to run a web store. In fact, successful merchants are those who ask the simplest questions every time they are confronted with a new challenge. In our current economic situation, the million dollar question is, “What would people buy when timesĀ  are hard?”

The answer to that question is “Almost anything, but at a cheaper price.”

When times are good, almost everything sells because there’s obviously lots of money to throw around. But when times aren’t so good, people start to tighten their purse strings. However, everyone still needs to spend on necessities such as food, clothes, transportation, education, medication and utilities – because life has to go on.

In fact, there are even items that would not normally sell well during good times but will suddenly sell like hot cakes during difficult times like these. Here are a few examples of common items that have been given a little twist in terms of marketing:


Used and off season clothes, believe it or not. You may not have thought about spending money on a lot of these clothes no matter how good they looked during better economic times, but a business opportunity seeker or two saw this opportunity coming as soon as the bubble burst and they’re now making money selling used and off season clothes to various niches – plus-size, maternity, kids, infants – the list goes on. Sounds obvious once it’s been pointed out, but it’s those who grasp opportunity when others give it a pass who find early (and sometimes lasting) success.

Many merchants source these types of clothes from countries such as Hong Kong, China and even Japan. This ensures the designs don’t look jaded even though they are not entirely new, because they are not found in the US. Moreover, margins for these items are pretty good.

The advantage online stores selling such items have over conventional stores is that the perception issue that some people may have about being seen buying used or off season apparel is pretty much a non-factor when shopping for clothes online.


Used text books and e-books also sell well during a recession. No matter what the economic situation, people still need to study. In countries where education is not subsidized, college reading material can really set you back. The popularity of e-books has been growing steadily as well because people are becoming more environmentally-conscious. This is an additional marketing angle that you could use.


Speaking of environmental consciousness, parents are shying away from costly “plasticky” contemporary toys in favor of more “green” toys which come in the form of brain teasing puzzles and creative assembly fixtures. These puzzles and fixtures are made from recycled material and are free from chemicals so they’re good for the environment, safe for your child and lighter on your wallet.

Generic Brands

Selling generic alternatives of fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) is also a hot idea. But remember, the margins for these items are not that high so you’ll have to sell them in volume. This also means that you’ll need quite a bit of storage space to store your inventory if you’re choosing to go this route.

There are many more items which sell well during a recession. The examples above are just to show you that you don’t really need to think that hard to figure out what to sell. All it takes is for you to be a business opportunity seeker with some foresight and a hint of creativity.

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