The holidays bring both the best and worst out of people. On one hand the spirit of the season causes unparalleled acts of charity, and on the other, criminal-minded opportunists look for any excuse to take advantage. So in the spirit of taking, we offer our list of the top 5 most shoplifted items this holiday season.
Astonishingly, 96% of companies claimed to have been victims of shoplifting in 2012; a staggering figure to be sure, with an estimated cost impact of $13 billion worth of goods stolen from American retailers every year. The National Association of Shoplifting Prevention approximates the number of shoplifters in the US today at 27 million (or 1 in 11 people). The sad truth behind the numbers, however, is that many shoplifting cases are people stealing expensive essentials like instant formula, diabetic testing strips, pregnancy tests, etc.
Our top 5 list looks at products that are big-ticket items for thieves throughout the year, cross-referenced with popular holiday gifts from 2013. Our list is also indebted to The Wall Street Journal‘s Marketwatch list.
5. Expensive Liquors
Liquor is a year-round target for shoplifters, seeing as it’s a necessity for those that need to feed an addiction. The holidays bring out a certain drive to drink, however; cold weather coupled with an abundance or lack of family. Granted, most of the liquor stolen this time of year isn’t being given as gifts, but it still remains a big-ticket item for shoplifters. Liquor makes up 2.9 percent of the annual “shrinkage rate” (the amount of product lost between manufacture and sale) in North America.
Smaller, more expensive items are prime targets for shoplifters. Jewelry is especially valuable because it has a large secondhand pawn market. Also, because they can be slipped easily into a pocket, and not-so-easily tagged, items like necklaces and rings walk out of stores without staff ever knowing. Gold and silver are always in high demand and, because they can be melted down and refashioned into other pieces, they’re almost impossible to trace.
3. Cosmetics / Perfume
Much like jewelry, cosmetics and perfume present a world of opportunity for thieves. They’re also smaller, expensive, easily stolen items, but there might be more to it than that. Rachel Shteir, author of The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting, argues that those that steal cosmetics do so out of a desire to get revenge. Expensive products like hair growth formula, makeup, teeth whitening strips, et al, have a high rate of theft. As Shteir puts it, “Some people feel resentful that they have to pay a high price for them. They feel like they have already paid a high price for having genes that make them look the way they do.”
2. Designer Clothes
Clothing is a perennially shoplifted item, mostly because it’s so easy to get away with. No law-abiding store is going to set up cameras in dressing rooms, and more understaffed stores won’t even have attendants monitoring what customers are bringing in and out. Shoplifters will remove tags, put the stolen clothes on underneath their current clothes, and walk out without anyone being the wiser. This method of theft is even more prevalent with undergarments, where a thief can layer multiple pairs of underwear or bras and walk right out the door. Designer clothing is more often targeted because, if you’re not going to pay, you might as well not pay for something valuable. Since 2009, clothing theft has increased by 31%, according to Adweek.
1. Smartphones / Small Electronics
The hottest holiday items in recent years have been electronics. Items like smartphones, tablets, and (this year) smart watches that are essentially luxury items, have become so pervasive that to be without one means missing out on a large cultural trend. This motivation, coupled with the fact that there’s a huge resale market for these items, makes them irresistible to shoplifters. Not only are the devices themselves big draws for crooks, but accessories are also targeted. Unlike the devices they’re used with, accessories typically aren’t nailed or tethered to a counter, which makes them prime candidates for theft.
If you’re a retailer and you sell any of these oft-taken items, there are a number of ways to prevent theft. Hidden cameras targeting specific areas of your store, GPS asset trackers on larger items, and livestreaming security cameras can give you a clear view of everything going on in your store.
With any luck, you’ll make it out of the holidays with nothing but good will towards man.