Which retail goods are most alluring to professional shoplifters? The list may surprise you.
Shoplifting crimes usually only make the headlines when a Hollywood actress is caught like a deer in headlights sneaking designer clothes past a knowing security guard, or when the wealthy daughter of the former mayor of New York decides she'd rather not pay for her makeup. But for every celebrity with a mug shot, there's an army of professional thieves walking off unnoticed, stashing millions of dollars in retail goods. Meat is stuffed under skirts. Razor blades are loaded into "boost" bags. Baby formula is taken and resold to unwitting parents or to eager drug dealers who use the powder to cut cocaine.
Not surprisingly, American stores saw a spike in shoplifting in 2008, when the economy hit a downturn. According to the Global Retail Theft Barometer, produced by the UK-based Center for Retail Research, retail crimes such as shoplifting, employee theft, and supply chain fraud rose 8.8% in the United States, to $42.2 billion, that year. In 2007, retail crimes rose 1.5%.
[Scroll down to see list of America's 9 Most Stolen Products.]
But at least one US-based survey says that store theft is now on the decline, if only slightly. Early results of the latest National Retail Security Survey were released this summer and showed that retail theft decreased to 1.44% of sales in 2009, down from 1.51% in 2008. That meant that total losses rang up to $33.5 billion last year, compared to $36.5 billion in 2008, say authors of the survey, a joint project of the National Retail Federation and the University of Florida.
The modest decline is good news for American families who ultimately pick up the tab for stolen goods. Shoplifting is estimated to cost the average US household some $200 to $300 annually in higher prices. It's also an encouraging change for honest citizens who every year lose out on tens of millions in uncollected tax revenues because of retail theft.
So what are shoplifters nabbing, and why? Are cultural trends mirrored by criminal activity? Here Minyanville presents those objects that are most wanted -- and least paid-for -- across the country.
(Click on the links below for more interesting findings on each pilfered product.)
Shoplifters prefer Certified Angus, and some add fine cheese on the side.
Strange Ways People Get It Out of the Store
By railing against The Man, anti-establishment writers have influenced the theft of their own work.
Most Stolen Book Title Raises Some Eyebrows
Professional thieves and shoplifters go for stomach soothers, diet pills, and pain relief.
Why Prilosec Is Often Behind the Cashier
Shoplifters reach for the highbrow champagnes or the cheap vodka, but less of everything in between. Two Brands Kept Under Lock & Key
The business of stealing infant formula is always brisk and sometimes vicious.
Reason to Only Buy From Reputable Retailers
Razors for Men
Organized crime inflates the cost of your daily shave. How Russian Mafia Got in on the Action
Build a devoted and well-accessorized fan base and the shoplifters will follow.
Why the Multi-Accessory Product Line Is So 'Hot'
Maybe she's born with it. Maybe she's stealing Maybelline.
What Brand-Conscious Thieves Steal Most
Gadgets, Games, and Smartphones
Shoplifters stay up on what's "in" -- and move fast when a product is hot.
One Problem for These Five-Finger Artists