How Shoplifting Costs Us All

304332-shopliftAs we are in the Christmas shopping season, we are also in the Christmas shoplifting season.

It seems that as much as sales for the holiday rise, so do incidents of shoplifting.

For 2013, the estimate for retail loss due to shoplifting, employee theft and warehouse theft was £978 million! I can only imagine what it my be this year.

A few months ago I read in the news that a Romanian man was caught shoplifting “on the first day he arrived in the UK.” He was caught and fined and released, only to go back the next day and try to steal over £1,000 worth of vodka from an Asda.

A security officer noticed the man and followed him outside the store. Once outside the Romanian man ran off, but was caught later on. The prosecutor in the case Karen Saffman stated, “The value of his trolley load was extremely high.”

This got me to thinking about shoplifting and shoplifters. How bold you must be and have nerves of steal in order to do such a thing. Morrissey when he was in the Smiths sang, “Shoplifters of the World Unite”, This in turn got me to thinking, if the shoplifters of the world were to unite, how many of them would there be??

It turns out there would be a lot! Shoplifting is a huge and costly crime.

shutterstock_278569967The Cost

With shoplifting reaching an all time high, and in 2012-103 there being over 630,000 thefts, we are all paying the price for this. Depending on where you look, it is estimated that shoplifting costs the retail industry anywhere from over £300 million, to as much as £500 million each year! What also is amazing about this is that 90% of all thefts are not reported to the police.

The reason for these thefts not being reported is the lack of faith in the police. According to the British Retail Consortium, the reason for the low reporting figures, “is an indication of the lack of confidence businesses have in the police response to customer theft and the perception that it is often perceived as a ‘victimless’ crime and as a result not taken seriously.

The Retail Consortium’s Director General, Helen Dickinson stated, “Theft from stores pushed the direct cost of retail crime up to £511million last year, 166 per cent higher than five years ago.”

“Far from being victimless, we all pay for this increased stealing through higher prices and, increasingly, shop closures and damage to town centres as safety is reduced and communities are blighted.”

I think we can all see shoplifting is not a victimless crime as many think. It costs the retailers, who in turn pass that cost onto us the consumer.

Ms. Dickinson went on to add, “Last year we also saw a dramatic increase in fraud and e-crime with eight in 10 retailers reporting a rise in fraud and the majority of retailers telling us that cyber-attacks pose a critical threat to their business.”

Combined with the increase in organised theft, this means that retailers are facing an increasingly sophisticated criminal.”

Chairman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, Tony Lloyd said, “Last year the direct cost of retail crime was £511million nationally. Local shop owners should receive proper support from the police.”

“The retail industry is the backbone of the British economy and we must do all we can to tackle theft, robbery and the rise of e-crime.”

He went on to say, “Police and Crime Commissioners are committed to do all they can to help the retail sector thrive.

“We are working closely with local businesses to improve engagement with the police and set out clear priorities for action.’” 

Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker said: “There are positive findings in this report, including a fall in numbers of burglaries and incidents of criminal damage.” 

“But we are not complacent, and are working closely with the retail sector and law enforcement to continue to improve our response to crime in this sector.”

“We have also recently launched the Organised Crime Strategy and National Crime Agency to tackle the growing threat of serious and organised criminality.”

There are figures that show the average value of a theft has risen by over 60% to £177. With this average value, it doesn’t take long for a small shop or store to suddenly no longer be profitable.


With so much stuff being stolen on a daily basis, it makes one wonder, how are these thieves doing it?? There must be certain ways or techniques the shoplifters have in order to steal as they do. Naturally the goal is to get outside the store or shop with an item that you did not pay for, and to not get caught.

Hide the Merchandise: One simple yet effective way to shoplift is to just use something to hide the item you wish to steal inside or cover it. This could be another shopping bag, paper to cover the item, to even using a child’s pram to place the stolen item in.

Crotch-Walking: Just as the name implies, the thief places the item to be stolen between their legs and crab walks out the store or shop. There is an “art” to this form of shoplifting. 

Grab and Run: There is no style or finesse to this form of shoplifting, just a bold and brazen approach, and hopefully strong legs to run away. The thief walks into a shop, grabs what they want and runs out as quickly as possible. This done in the hopes the shop owner or security guard does not give chase, and is not in better shape then the thief. Most shoplifters that use this somewhat crude technique, have their escape route planned. 

Distraction: Two or more people enter a store and one distracts the sales person so the other can steal an item. Simple, yet effective.

There are many other shoplifting techniques as well, such as price or barcode switching to get an item at a cheaper price, fake returns, cloning gift cards, etc. The list of ways shoplifters and thieves steal goes on and on

Counter Measures

Just as everyday a shoplifter comes up with a new way or technique to steal, retailers and shop keepers come up with new ways to counter the stealing.

Security Guards: Sometimes it can be as simple as having a security guard and cctv to reduce shoplifting. Having security roam the store in plain clothes is another counter measure. This can be costly, but for large stores worthwhile.

Electronic Tagging: Most of us have seen these tags on clothing, liquor, and other expensive items in the stores. The tag if passed through the doors of the store, and the electronic gate, sets off an alarm, which lets employees know the tag has not been removed, or an item may be stolen.

Monitoring: Having staff be vigilant in watching customers. This is a delicate thing to do as you don’t want your customers to feel their every move is being watched and scrutinised.

What Happens If a Shoplifter Gets Caught

If we are to believe that 90% of all shoplifting is unreported, then we would tend to believe not that many shoplifters get caught.

There are different consequences for shoplifters that are caught, and can vary among stores and shops and their rules and policies.

* You receive a warning from the store.

* The store may ban you.

* You receive a police caution.

* You go to court and are fined.

* If severe and continuous, possible prison sentence.

shutterstock_108585296What Items Get Shoplifted

As to what shoplifters steal, anything and everything. We know one Romanian thief who stole vodka. In some instances shoplifters steal whatever is easiest to get, or what they can resell.

Many will steal clothing, make-up, batteries, shoes, baby clothes, and even food. For some shoplifters food is easy to steal as it has no electronic tags.


The majority of shoplifters are not stealing items for themselves. You will find some shoplifters that may put something in their bags to take home and use, but for many they steal to resell what they have stolen. So how do they do this?

For some they sell what they have stolen online, such as with eBay or Gumtree. Why not make use of the technology that is out there.

They can also sell to markets, in pubs or on the street. In pubs they may walk through and ask if anyone wants to buy a pair of new trannies for £10 or some cheap price. Jewellery is frequently sold at some pubs I have been in. They even sell meat and food. The shoplifter just wants the cash, not the merchandise they stole.

Some shoplifters earn a lot of money off this little business venture of theirs. One woman states she made £2 million! Kim Farry, one of Britons “shameless shoplifters” said, “I’m not ashamed of what I’ve done, I’m proud.”

“I was untouchable. I made millions and had a life most-normal-people can only dream of.”

“It really annoys me when people say I’ve never had a job because I worked at my business non-stop for over four-decades. It just happens that my business was shoplifting.”

Shameless indeed.

Employee Theft

Part of the figures and losses that make up shoplifting is also employee theft. Employees still from their employers on a regular basis and is a source of losses for retailers and shops.

Monitoring employees through cctv and also limiting their access to certain areas and products can help reduce the losses, but again a fine line to walk keeping your employees happy and not feeling they are under constant watch.

These losses can be as small as office products like paper, pens, or as large as an employee stealing a big TV out the back door.

Shoplifting is big business and a big crime that affects us all.

,As we are in the Christmas shopping season, we are also in the Christmas shoplifting season. It seems that as much as sales for the holiday rise, so do incidents of shoplifting. For 2013, the es

This article by Jon Emge was syndicated by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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