Shoplifting by the numbers:

1. It’s estimated that there are currently 27 million shoplifters in the U.S. today, which means 1 in 11 of us steal from stores and retailers.

2. Those 27 million criminals must be busy because it’s estimated there are between 330-440 million individual cases of shoplifting every year, which comes to 1 – 1.2 million shoplifting incidents daily, or 50,000 every hour.

3. Approximately 10 million people have been caught shoplifting over the last 5 years, at an average of 2 million nabbed ‘lifters every year!

4. In the time it takes you to read this blog, about 1,500 items with a total price tag of about $200,000 will be shoplifted from U.S. stores!

The Price Tag on Shoplifting:

5. The damage done by shoplifting is not only to the retailer or store, but impacts all of us. The extra burden on security, police, courts, and store losses are all passed down to taxpaying consumers.

6. The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP) found that shoplifting costs retailers about $13 every year, and the American taxpaying public a total of about $33.21 billion yearly, or about $75,000 every minute!

7. For the average retailer, losses due to shoplifting average 1.7% of all gross sales. Shoplifting accounts for about 33% of all total inventory shrinkage (damage, loss, employee theft, expiration, etc. are all other reasons for inventory shrinkage.) Interestingly, 33.1% of total inventory shrinkage is employee theft, which is not classified as shoplifting.

8. The average store theft is between $2 and $200.

A Profile of the Typical Shoplifter:

9. Can you picture the typical shoplifter? If you can’t, it’s for good reason, because experts cite that there is no average shoplifter profile. Consider that:

10. Men and women shoplift about equally.

11. You might think that shoplifting is an indiscretion of youth, but only 25% of shoplifters are kids. That means that 75% are fully grown adults!

12. A 2004 study by the University of Florida concluded that middle-aged adults age 35-54 shoplift more than children!

13. Shoplifters are usually poor and/or uneducated? Not so fast. A 2008 study by Columbia University concluded that shoplifting was actually more prevalent among people with higher education and income, which made them conclude there were more psychological factors and less financial motivation that made people steal.

14. One crazy fact is that many consumers buy something at a store AND steal merchandise during the same visit!

15. Interestingly enough, sneaking shoplifting is usually a crime that the perpetrator plans in advance. In fact, only 73% of adult and 72% of juvenile shoplifters don’t plan to steal anything in advance, it just happens once they get in the store.

The most commonly stolen items:

16. According to the National Retail Federation, the items that are most targeted by shoplifters include (in no particular order):

Chewing gum,
The weight-loss drug Alli,
Red Bull energy drinks,
Dyson vacuums,
Bumble and Bumble hair products,
Cover Girl cosmetics,
Crest Whitestrips,

17. Shoplifting is mostly an amateurish act, not a professional vocation. In fact, only about 3% of shoplifters are considered professional thieves who steal things with the intent to resell them for a profit. However, those 3% of professionals account for 10% of all dollar losses from store thefts.

18. Among those who shoplift regularly, they steal something from a store an average of 1.6 times per week.

The history of shoplifting:

19. There have been theories that the rise of the modern shopping mall first brought on the shoplifting phenomenon in society but in fact, it’s been around about as long as we’ve had stores and merchants

20. Written accounts of shoplifting go back at least as far as Shakespearean times. In 1591, a playwright for the Bard’s Company named Robert Greene wrote a pamphlet that gave counsel to potential shoplifters, advising that they should be “attired in the form of a civil country gentleman.”

21. Due to a huge rise in shoplifting in the second half of the 17th century, the Shoplifting Act in 1699 made shoplifting more than five shillings worth of goods punishable by death by hanging.

22. They enforced the act, hanging numerous shoplifters in the 18th century in Europe, even for small thefts. One woman, Mary Jones, was hanged in 1771 for stealing a piece of linen to make clothes for her baby.

23. Despite the Draconian punishment, shoplifters weren’t deterred. According to historian J.M. Beattie, stealing clothes accounted for 27% of all theft in 18th-century London.

Retailers fight back:

24. It seems that the great recession only increased the number of people shoplifting. In fact, before the recession there were about 600,000 people caught shoplifting each year, but that number rose to over a million last year.

25. Retailers commonly use different security features and methods to dissuade shoplifters, include cables and hanger locks that require the assistance of a salesperson, plain-clothes detectives to observe customers as they shop on the floor, video surveillance cameras, and electronic article surveillance (EAS) devices attached to their products that cause alarms to go off if a thief walks out of the store before they are deactivated.

26. Over the last 5 years, apprehension of individuals caught shoplifting has risen by about 90 percent%! Shoplifting cases a significant strain on the economy and small businesses and if the person is caught, it will go into their credit record and will not be possible to remove this negative item from their credit report.

27. Police and merchant data shows that shoplifters are caught an average of only once every 48 times they commit an act of thievery.

28. When they are caught, stores and retailers contact the police and have shoplifters arrested approximately 50% of the time.

29. Retailers and businesses around the world spend about $26.8 billion a year to stop shoplifters and thieves, a dollar amount that has grown at a rate of almost 10% per year in the last 5 years.

30. Shoplifting trivia:

31. Meat was the most shoplifted item in the United States in both 2006 and 2007, according to the Food Marketing Institute.

32. In 1971, counter culture icon Abbie Hoffman published a book called “Steal This Book” which was basically a manual on how to shoplift. No newspapers would review it and many states banned it but the book did set off a nationwide shoplifting spree.

33. The Centre for Retail Research in the UK states that men most commonly shoplift electronics, televisions, and power tools, while women steal cosmetics, clothes, jewelry and perfume the most.

34. The affliction of shoplifting books because of a compulsive desire to own as many as possible has it’s own name – bibliomania. In fact, one notable bibliomaniac stole 23,000 books from archives and libraries across the country before getting caught!

35. According to the American Psychiatric Association, kleptomania, the term for the disease that irrationally compels people to steal, afflicts about six in 1,000 people in the population, and less than 5 percent of shoplifters.