While seemingly a victim-less crime, shoplifting is neither harmless nor without impact. It is now considered the number one major property crime in the United States. It has profound effects as well: the higher retail prices of commodities to make up for the losses, significant loss of local and state tax revenues, loss of community jobs in the event of store closure, as well as an additional burden to the police and courts from the apprehension and trial of offenders.
In this article, we have assembled shoplifting statistics on the reasons behind, the impact of, solutions and challenges to addressing the increasingly prevalent crime of shoplifting. These statistics can serve as a guide whether you are a business owner looking to curb shoplifting incidence in your shop, staff employed in a retail store, or security detail interested in more than cursory information on the subject.
Shoplifting Statistics & Data Table of Contents
Overview: Shoplifting as an Epidemic
One of the most striking characteristics of shoplifting as a crime is how prevalent it is: over 200 million individual cases annually. That’s a staggering 550,000 incidents every day or roughly 23,000 every hour.
The second is the sheer number of offenders: 27 million shoplifters in the US at present: or 10% of the total US population, affecting 1 in 11 persons. It is indeed, a crime of epidemic proportions.
Profile of a shoplifter
- Shoplifters have no known profile. The offenders can generally be divided into two age segments: 25% are kids or juveniles while 75% are adults. The crime is committed by both genders.
- 47% of high school students admitted to having shoplifted in the past year. To put it into perspective though, 55% of the adult shoplifters said they started shoplifting in their teens.
Shoplifting as a serious crime
- Is shoplifting just a petty crime? 79% of criminal justice professionals disagree, saying that it is a gateway to more costly and violent crimes.
- Of the 27 million known shoplifters, 3% are considered professionals. However, they account for 1/10 of the total value of shoplifting losses annually.
- Is shoplifting a premeditated crime? 72% of juveniles in a study said they decided to commit the crime in-store while 73% of adults said the same thing.
- Is shoplifting a manifestation of kleptomania? Not necessarily so, says the American Psychiatric Association, which states that only 5% of shoplifters are kleptomaniacs.
Organized Retail Crime
- ORC or organized retail crime, another type of shoplifting/retail crime, combined with non-ORC shoplifting and employee theft for 2/3 of the value of annual shrinkage (retail fraud, losses, other types of retail losses), causes $50.6 billion annually.
- ORC is also widespread as 91.6% of companies surveyed by the National Retail Federation reported ORC incidents while 71.3% noted an increase in ORC year-over-year.
Shoplifting as part of shrinkage loss
- On a global scale, shoplifting comprise the biggest part of the global retail shrinkage by source at 34.34% with vendor/supplier loss second at 24.28% and employee theft third at 22.9%
- In the US, the apparel sector registered the highest overall dollar loss at $934. Globally, the hardest-hit were the fashion and accessory retailers, which accounted for 2.43% of 2018 sales.
- The US, as the world’s largest consumer market, also had the biggest losses due to shrinkage at 1.85% of sales, slightly above the global average of 1.82%. External sources, which include shoplifting was responsible for 35.55% of lost sales. Of that figure, shoplifting was cited by 51.49% of global retailers survey respondents.
- Globally, the top three countries with the highest shrinkage values are also the largest markets for consumer spending: 1) US ($42.49 billion); 2) China ($13.52 billion); and the UK ($7.45 billion).
- In terms of global vertical markets, the top three sectors that attributed the highest proportion of shrinkage to external sources were the more lucrative ones: consumer electronics at 35.32%; fashion and accessories at 34.17%; and variety and department stores at 32.79%.
A time and a place for shoplifting
- The top 10 US cities in terms of shoplifting incidents are: 1) Atlanta; 2) Baltimore; 3) Washington; 4) Chicago; 5) Dallas; 6) Houston; 7) Los Angeles; 8) Miami; 9) New York; 10) Phoenix
- In terms of seasonality, winter is the prime shoplifting season in the US with 81% of the season losses occurring during the holidays/festivities.
- A study revealed that most shoplifting incidents occur during the busiest days of the week, from Wednesday to Saturday.
Source: Sensormatic Shrink Index
Source: Sensormatic Shrink Index
Impact and Costs by the Numbers
For a crime that many may consider as petty, shoplifting has a dramatic impact on the business sector and the country’s economy. The repercussions go deep, costing every taxpayer thousands of dollars.
- $47 million is the amount of daily loss to stores
- Over $15 billion worth of goods per year shoplifted
- Shrinkage, retail theft that includes shoplifting, added up to $42.9 billion in 2017-2019
- A nation-wide study revealed that each shoplifter who enters the criminal justice system costs US taxpayers $2,000.
- The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention states that lost revenues from shoplifting cost American taxpayers around $33.21 billion yearly or roughly $75,000 per minute.
- The common expression says that crime does not pay. However, shoplifting seems to be largely exempt from this as the chances of being arrested are only 1 out of 100 offenses. 48% or almost half of 15,000 surveyed in a study were repeat offenders.
- In an NRF 2018 study, the number of apprehensions and prosecutions continued to decrease to 1/3 the 2015 numbers with only 1,105.2 apprehensions and 727.9 prosecutions.
- The average case value of theft in the US: $125 while the average dollar loss per shoplifting incident was $559
- Increased spending on security and loss prevention budgets goes as high as 35% of the percentage of sales
Source: Statista (2018)
Source: Statista (2018)
Fighting Back: Loss Prevention Technology Measures
Businesses have been pouring considerable resources into combating against shoplifting and shrink crimes by beefing-up security staff as well as tapping modern tools to deter, prevent, or catch shoplifters. Companies worldwide have been mixing low- and high-tech measures to address this ever-growing crime.
- Biometric surveillance technology emerges as one of the most effective deterrence tools resulting in a 34% decrease in shoplifting by retailers employing facial recognition.
- Application of RFID technology is very popular in the US with 62.75% being used for loss prevention and asset protection, representing 1.72% of revenue (2017-2018 Sensormatic).
- Globally, the most common uses for RFID were as follows: inventory tracking and visibility (62%); stock/on-floor replenishment (52%); inventory cycle counting (52%); and loss prevention and asset protection (50%)
- Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) represents a key area of investment worldwide among retail organizations, with 62.05% of a study’s respondents stating their actions to increase investment in this technology. EAS tags are popular measures for hypermarket retailers to reduce shrinkage at 61.43% while fashion stores resort to POS (Point of Sale) checkout data (53.66%).
- CCTV is another area where investments are increasing with 50.89% of respondents of a global study affirming their intent to pour more money into the video monitoring technology.
- Other technologies being tapped increasingly include POS data mining, use of digital video recorders, and acoustomagnetic tags.
Source: Sensormatic Shrink Index
Global Uses for RFID Technology
Source: Sensormatic Shrink IndexCreated by CompareCamp.com
Loss Prevention Threats and Challenges
Globally, companies and businesses have made great strides in addressing shrinkage and in particular, shoplifting incidents. However, there are hurdles that can make shoplifting rates come down significantly. Modern technology, increased criminality, laxity of the legal system, and even the drug crisis are posing as serious threats to combating the shoplifting problem.
- Technology has made the sale of fenced items easier with the popularity of online sites such as eBay.
- The increasing sophistication of Organized Retail Crime shoplifters to evade or beat security measures, such as tampering with product barcodes, POS equipment, etc.
- The growing involvement of felons, gangs, and more hardened criminals in ORC
- The growing use of self-checkout machines, which may be convenient and cheaper than human staff but encourage shoplifting
- Concerns over increasing shoplifter violence/active shooting/mall violence in general. 44% of offenders interviewed in a study of the LPRC said that they were engaged in violence during their theft attempt.
- Decriminalization as well as reduction of sanctions against the crimes of larceny and misdemeanor. Shoplifting usually falls under the crime of larceny or misdemeanor, and laws vary from state to state. Thirty-five states have raised their felony theft thresholds since 2001, making the crime a high-reward, low-risk proposition.
- The continuing drug crisis, increasing opioid drug addiction and its connection to shoplifting crimes to fund drug dependency
Can Tech Stop Shoplifting?
The age-old problem of shoplifting continues to persist in these modern times. In fact, it is growing alongside the rising tag prices of items and commodities that are being shoplifted.
Whereas before, some companies will just have to consider shoplifting incidents as accruing losses and part and parcel of doing business, more and more businesses are pushing back as evidenced by the increasing investments in loss prevention staff and technology.
The thing is, as the technology gets more sophisticated, criminals also get tech savvier. Some got around to circumventing electronic tagging and POS security measures while others migrated to the lucrative area of cyber-theft, which is another growing concern among retailers, enterprises, and loss prevention professionals. The relaxing of laws regarding larceny as well as the high costs of policing and apprehending offenders may have tipped the scale with regards to the risks and rewards aspects of shoplifting. From the looks of things, shoplifting is a crime that’s not going away anytime soon nor show signs of slowing down.
- Center for Retail Research
- Hays International
- Loss Prevention Research Council
- Loss Prevention Media
- Loss Prevention Magazine
- National Retail Federation
- National Retail Security
- National Association for Shoplifting Prevention
- Security Magazine
- Sensormatic Global Shrink Index
- National Center for Biotechnology Information