Simple Pleasures Thrive in Recession


If you’ve been burying recession woes in escapist tendencies, you’re not alone.  Despite the economic slump, rising unemployment and weak consumer spending, sales of some simple vices have been strong.

Although consumers are putting off major purchases and cutting their entertainment expenses, there’s still some wiggle room for little treats.  Especially those that get feel-good juices flowing.  (Chocolate contains the chemical phenethylamine, which promotes a sense of well being and contentment.)

Hershey (Stock Quote: HSY), the biggest American chocolate company, saw chocolate sales grow nearly 3% in the fourth quarter to almost $1.4 billion. Market research firm Mintel predicts the chocolate market will keep growing throughout the recession.

If your pocket is feeling the pinch from the sagging economy, try easing the pain with a simple chocolate concoction using Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix plus a dash of chili powder.  Capsaicin from the chilis will get your endorphins pumping again.

Starbucks (Stock Quote: SBUX) may be selling fewer $5 lattes, but packaged Dunkin Donuts coffee—after racking up $112 million in sales in its first year in stores—has been named one of the most successful products of 2008, according to market data research firm IRI.

“Despite hardships, consumers are not willing to give up all indulgences,” the firm said in a recent report.  Although consumers are going out to eat less often, products to bring home allow "consumers to enjoy a treat without breaking the budget.”

Not surprisingly, bars and liquor stores do better than many other businesses during a recession, according to Gary Hemphill of Beverage Marketing Corporation. 

And with companies like Coors (Stock Quote: TAP) producing Belgian-style witbier like Blue Moon and Michelob’s line of seasonal beers and guide to food-and-beer pairing, you can even indulge beyond pairing Budweiser (Stock Quote: BUD) and pretzels at home.

Fast Food
McDonald’s (Stock Quote: MCD) U.S. sales grew grown 5% in the fourth quarter of last year and Burger King (Stock Quote: BKC) sales were up 3% in the company’s most recent quarter, suggesting dollar menu dining could be getting more popular.

Romance Novels
Serial romance novel publisher Harlequin reported a $3 million increase in North American book sales in the fourth quarter of last year. And adult paperback book sales are up 3.6%, as opposed to an overall decline in book sales, according to the Association of American Publishers. 

Video Games
Video game sales are expected to reach $41.9 billion this year world-wide, according to IbisWorld, a market research firm. That’s a jump from $27.2 billion in 2004.  And gamers may have a new excuse for their addiction: Playing video games may actually improve eyesight for those who have contrast sensitivity or trouble seeing while driving at night.


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