What recession? Slumping sales aren't a problem here

You might be able to count the number of steps you take on the newly unveiled 5th Generation iPod Nano, but you certainly can't spin records on it.

The retro "feel" and iconic static sound has music lovers flocking to vinyl albums (you know, those REALLY big circle things children of the 70s and early 80s listened to as kids) and the turntables they're played on.

Some record stores, like J&R Music, are even stocking "records" of classic artists like Aerosmith and the Beach Boys, as well as freshly pressed LP versions of Lady Gaga and other current music sensations.

But vinyl and turntables aren't the only things defying the laws of the recession. There's a bevy of products and services that Americans are still throwing their hard-earned dollars at. Or perhaps more accurately are turning out to "take out."

Here's a rundown of some companies and products asking the question: "What recession?"

Fast food
Restaurants suffered one of the hardest blows of the recession. Understandably. Who can afford to eat out when you can't afford to pay your mortgage? And hot dogs at home cost a lot less than Chili's Baby Back Ribs. But with competitors closing up around them, P.F. Chang's China Bistro chain eateries P.F. Chang's and Pei Wei Asian Diner are turning a profit. The company's stock has doubled since November.

Chinese food peddled at malls isn't the only fare tempting the palates of those with limited funds. Burgers, a staple in American diets, appear to be recession-proof. Last year, sales at fast food and fast casual burger chains grew 4.1% to $64 billion, according to the "2009 Technomic Top 50 Limited-Service Hamburger Chains Restaurant Report" released in October 2009. Drive-thru burgers outpaced the limited-service industry, which grew 3.2%.

It could be that Americans are drowning their economic sorrows. Or that we're pairing a lush Merlot with our Big Macs. But sales of alcohol continue to remain high. And with the holidays swiftly approaching, experts expect alcohol sales to continue to hold their own.

We might not be able to afford a trip to the doctor's office, but one thing's for sure: Americans love their Smartphones. In fact, the whole world has a love affair with all things buzzing, pinging and chirping.

Smartphone shipments soared 4.2% globally in the third quarter, hitting a record total for a quarter despite the poor economy, market research firm IDC told Computerworld. Smartphone vendors shipped 43.3 million smartphones, such as the iPhone, in the third quarter, up 4.2% over the 41.5 million shipped in third quarter of 2008, IDC said.

Depending on your viewpoint, it's either the most fun -- or the dirtiest -- industry to profit from an economy on life support. Online pornography is sizzling, racking up sales faster than you can say boom-chicka-boom.

"Adult film" executives can't explain the increased interest but speculate we're looking for a distraction. And point-and-click porn could be what's keeping our minds off of lagging bank balances and mounting bills.

Escapism is also being credited with video game sales holding their own in this rocky economy.

Co-op funerals
The UK's largest undertaker -- The Co-operative Funeralcare -- is setting records, thanks to the number of Brits pre-planning their funerals.

The business -- which expects to sell a total of 50,000 funeral plans this year -- has enjoyed a 28% spike in sales, likely due to the rising cost of funerals, and to consumer's lack of confidence in other options (investments, insurance, etc.) to cover funeral costs. The co-op conducts one out of every four British funerals. It owns and operates 1,100 funeral homes across Britain.

Mobile pet grooming
Americans love their furry friends. And we love the ease of having them professionally bathed and coiffed right in our very own home almost as much. The U.S. pet industry is a $32 billion a year business often described as "recession resistant."

In fact, some recent studies and surveys indicate the same shoppers who are scaling back on gifts to granny or Aunt Sally wouldn't dream of Fido not having gifts under the tree. Since 1992, mobile pet grooming has steadily grown from a $16 billion to a $32 billion industry. And some speculate demand for mobile groomers will increase by 12% in 2010.

Comic books
Magazines are struggling to hold their own while newspapers, the dinosaurs of the publishing world, are seeing their readers drop off in record numbers. Yet one facet of the publishing industry has stormed out ahead of its older and once stronger siblings. Comic books are quickly becoming a multi-billion (yes, that's with a "B") industry. It seems perennial favorites like Spidey, the Hulk and Captain Marvel, along with Iron Man and the X-Men, are not just propelling comic books to the top of the publishing world but are helping Hollywood rake in the big bucks as well.

Recently, Disney Co. welcomed comics behemoth Marvel Entertainment into its family, paying $4 billion for Marvel's 5,000 plus characters. The comics are coming to the small screen, too. In 2009, the FX network began work on a show based on the comic series "Powers," and AMC acquired the rights to "The Walking Dead,'' a monthly black-and-white comic book.

As the waning days of 2009 tick down, Hollywood has broken a revenue record. Domestic ticket sales have soared past $10 billion, surpassing the old record of $9.68 billion set in 2007. Since there's little more than three weeks to go, and a host of mega-hits yet to open this year, analysts speculate 2009 sales could surge to $10.6 billion.

Gina Roberts-Grey is a freelance writer specializing in health, celebrity and consumer issues.
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