The Shoplifters’ Hit Parade

Shoplifters’ Hit Parade 2019 – Most Stolen Merchandise 1

Thieves will steal almost anything. If it is worth holding in stock, it is probably worth someone's time to steal it. The only limitation on what people might steal occurs when the resale value of an item is so low that the risk of being apprehended is much higher than the potential gain from theft.

People may steal items for their own use or, more often, to sell on to other people, including market traders and other businesses. For more information see Bamfield, J A N (2015) Shopping and Crime, London: Palgrave Macmillan.

The Hit Parade 2019

  • Packed meat, such as steak, lamb and bacon from supermarkets and convenience stores. These are expensive items in high demand and can readily be sold door-to-door or in pubs and clubs.
  • Razor blades: these are small expensive items in regular demand with a ready market.
  • Whisky, champagne, gin and other alcoholic products like prosecco are expensive items with a ready illegal market. The new popularity of artisan gin makes it a frequent target.
  • Cosmetics, makeup and lipsticks are regularly stolen for personal use, as gifts or for sale to others. The containers are often small and goods can be secreted in pockets, bags or knapsacks. Other products in this often-stolen category are sun-cream, skin-cream, hair treatment and shampoo.
  • Cheese. Ten years ago, cheese was the most-stolen product in the UK and Europe (based on our research). It may be stolen for commercial purposes along with expensive specialist products like parmesan.
  • Branded under-arm deodorants. These are popular items to steal and can be shoplifted in bulk by quickly ‘sweeping’ a fixture with one’s forearm.
  • Batteries. These are small, expensive items in regular demand.
  • Clothing accessories: these include scarves, handbags, purses, gloves and other small and expensive things.
  • Coffee: coffee is an expensive item in regular demand and may be stolen for person use or re-sale. Ordinary packet tea in the UK is now so cheap that there is usually no real gain from stealing it.
  • Baby clothes: growing babies regularly need larger outfits and the potential market is easy to spot.
  • Jeans: the switch to more casual forms of dress, even amongst office workers, makes jeans ever more popular in all age groups from ageing baby-boomers to millennials. Often stolen in batches they are easy to sell on.
  • Perfume and fragrance: costly products that are relatively easy to steal.
  • Small electrical goods and accessories: electric toothbrushes, smart speakers, iPads, headphones, shavers, data sticks. Smartphones are slightly less likely to be stolen because of robust security devices.
  • Sport fashion: in line with rising consumer demand, thieves steal branded items, sports shirts, football strips and trainers.
  • Boxed sets DVD and games.

1 Shoplifters: a note. The term, shoplifter, has been used to mean ‘customer thief’ for at least three centuries. Retailers in the UK feel that the use of this term implicitly suggests that customer theft is a minor, low-impact offence, though it is conventionally used in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. In terms of the total value stolen, shoplifting is one of the major crimes committed in the UK.

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