Why Do People Shoplift?

Written by Nyah Mallen

12th January 2023

In 2022/23, there was an estimated 342,343 shoplifting offences that occurred in England and Wales according to Statista, but why is it that people shoplift; and what are some of the core signs a person is considering shoplifting?

We’ll explore that and more in today’s article.

Why Do People Shoplift?

According to an article released by Shopify, there are numerous reasons why someone might shoplift and the items they might steal.

For an example of the type of items stolen, why not read our article on the most common supermarket thefts?

We discuss the causes of shoplifting in greater detail below:

Financial Difficulty

Unfortunately, shoplifting will result from people who are facing difficult times when it comes to finances, resulting in them stealing essentials to appropriately care for themselves or their families.

According to Big Issue, in the 12 months leading up to March 2023, the British Retail Consortium had reported up to eight million shoplifting incidents, with police recording 339,206 cases in the same period – a 24% increase from the previous year. Such a drastic change has been triggered by the soaring cost of living crisis, which continues to affect many households across the nation.

Many continue to grow desperate, which is leading to the theft of petty items and essentials to keep their loved ones fed and keep the costs down.

why do people shoplift

Low Risk

People may also be inclined to shoplift when they estimate there is little to no risk of being caught at specific retail outlets.

If stores suffer from a lack of floor staff or security guards, surveillance systems, and security tags on items, chances are the store will become a larger target for thieves who perceive it as low-hanging fruit.

Additionally, in a study performed by Loss Prevention Magazine, it was discovered that shoplifters claimed only to be caught an average of once in every 48 times they steal. Even then, they are only handed in to the police roughly 50% of the time.

Peer Pressure

Another all-too-unfortunate reason that shoplifting occurs is due to peer pressure. Younger people are often more susceptible to the pressure from their peers, possibly getting involved with petty theft to impress their friends – or being insidiously involved in gang activity, stealing as a show of loyalty or bravery to be inducted into a gang or organised crime group.

Emotional Problems And Kleptomania

It isn’t uncommon for a shoplifter to steal simply for the sake of stealing, whether it is because of the rush they get from it, or even factors such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder that can lead to regular acts of theft. Such obsessive acts can also contribute to the development of Kleptomania.

Healthline recognises Kleptomania as a condition in which the person suffering from it has “a recurrent failure to resist the urge to steal” and will often involve them stealing items that they don’t particularly benefit from, if at all. Kleptomaniacs often feel guilty or remorseful about stealing an item, too.

how to prepare for a night shift as a security guard

Criminal Enterprise

However, taking a look at the other end of the spectrum, there are criminals and thieves who treat shoplifting as a profession and will steal solely for gain and profit. They will frequently target a variety of items with large resale values and low risk factors, like clothing, accessories or fragrances, for example. Unguarded items make the temptation to shoplift all the greater for career criminals, as well.

What Are The Signs Of A Typical Shoplifter?

There are many signs to consider when attempting to identify a shoplifter in retail environments. Some include:

Working In Groups

One of the prime factors to look out for is groups. Whilst typically portrayed as working alone, it is actually far more common for shoplifters to work in organised groups, gangs and pairs. It isn’t uncommon for one or more members of the group to attempt to distract staff or security whilst the others commit the crime – using distraction to their advantage.

Rarely, they may even attempt to send floor staff to a different section of the retailer entirely, so that it becomes unwatched and increasingly vulnerable to theft.

Carrying Bags Or Coats

Large bags and coats can also be another tactic used by thieves to make their job of shoplifting easier – frequently being used for the easy concealment of items.

This can be a particularly suspicious tell to look out for during the summer months, as there is no need for thick or warm clothing.

how to prepare for a night shift as a security guard

Switching Price Labels

Especially innovative fraudsters may sometimes swap price tags on items in order to scan them in at a lower price – something that may be a particularly potent problem in smaller retail outlets with no standardised barcode system.

Refund Fraud

Along a similar vein, shoplifters will also frequently attempt to defraud a retail establishment by trying to refund an item they never purchased from there, in exchange for cash.

How To Avoid Shoplifting?

After learning about the causes of shoplifting and tells to keep an eye out for, you may be asking yourself “How do I stop shoplifting in my store?”

Train Staff

It can be incredibly beneficial to train your staff to prepare a keen eye for some of the factors listed above, as well as ensure that each area of the store is appropriately secured and covered.

Simply having your floor staff approach someone who may be considering shoplifting and asking them a question as simple as “Can I help you with anything?” or “Can I ring that up for you?” may be enough to make the shoplifter think twice and deter them from the act.

However, it is vitally important to train your staff to just leave certain situations alone if they feel endangered at any point. Their health and safety is far more important than attempting to stop a robbery.

Fit Security Measures

A more practical approach can be taken regarding security measures for a retailer, such as:

  • Installing security tags on high-value items
  • Installing visible CCTV surveillance systems to deter thieves
  • Making use of a store layout that puts item security first, with the checkouts near the entrance and exit.
  • Consider placing all high-value items in one area, with additional staffing and minimal entrances and exits
  • Impose a limit on the number of clothing items that shoppers can take into changing rooms with them to keep better track
retail security guard

Hire Security

One of the most effective methods for discouraging shoplifting can be employing professional retail security services. Skilled guards can act as an excellent visual deterrent for shoplifters and may assist in preventing thieves from carrying out their activities.
Security companies typically provide CCTV monitoring as well, to keep a watchful eye on your retail outlet’s cameras. Moreover, they offer the advantage of being able to communicate with floor staff and security.

Discover more about how you can secure your retail store in one of our other articles here.

reasons why people shoplift

So, Why Do People Shoplift?

In this article, we’ve discussed common reasons for shoplifting, signs to look out for in a shoplifter, and information on security measures that you can put in place to help prevent and protect yourself against retail theft.

To keep up with the latest retail news, consider navigating to our news page where you can find related articles on What Can Retail Security Guards Do? and How To Be An Efficient Retail Security Officer?

We also have an official Region Security YouTube channel where you can keep an eye out for all the latest security news, tips, and tricks.

Let’s Stay In Touch

Want to stay updated with our latest content? Enter your email address to subscribe to our free newsletter.

Related Articles

Retail Security Officer Duties

Retail Security Officer Duties

A retail security officer operates for theft prevention. This is more commonly by observing customers, and determining any irregular…

What Is Retail Security?

What Is Retail Security?

In this article we will learn about what is retail security, its importance and how you can improve it in a more effective way

How To Get A Retail Security Job?

How To Get A Retail Security Job?

The retail industry is one of the most active and largest employers of both experienced and novice security guards, and for good reason.