Why Do People Shoplift?

Written by regionadmin

12th January 2023

For the 2021/22 period, there has roughly 274,999 shoplifting offences occur in England and Wales according to Statista, but exactly why do people shoplift and what are some of the signs a typical shoplifter might show?

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

Why Do People Shoplift?

There are a variety of reasons why people steal according to an article by Shopify, we list some below.

Financial Difficulty

Unfortunately, many people who steal are often facing financial difficulties, this often means they’ll steal essentials such as clothes and food essentials to look after themselves or their families.

With Bloomberg UK reporting that shoplifting rose by 18% in the year through June 2022 as recent cost-of-living crisis costs soar throughout the country, people are becoming more and more desperate, and this may lead to them stealing petty items for themselves and their loved ones in a bid to keep costs down.

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

Low Risk

Another reason why people shoplift may be the perceived low risk of a certain retailer or store.

Typically, if a store is unguarded by the likes of security guards, and CCTV, and lacks any security tags on items or unsecured valuable items this may make that particular store a bigger target for thieves who may see the theft as an easy picking.

In addition to this, a report into shoplifting by the US Department of Justice found that only 5-10% of shoplifters are caught.

Peer Pressure

Another reason why people may decide to shoplift may be through peer pressure. Young people may be more susceptible against peer pressure as they may partake in petty theft to impress friends or more insidiously may be involved in gang activity and may steal from stores as a show of loyalty and bravery to be inducted into a gang or organised crime.

Emotional Problems And Kleptomania

Many shoplifters may also steal for the simple thrill of stealing, perhaps due to a lack of excitement in somebody’s life and needing to steal on an impulse, certain factors such as low serotonin and obsessive-compulsive disorder may lead to regular stealing and is also a contributor to people developing Kleptomania.

Healthline recognises the condition of Kleptomania as “a recurrent failure to resist the urge to steal” and often involves people stealing objects that they don’t particularly need or even possess much selling value to make money from and many kleptomaniacs would also feel guilty or remorseful after they’ve actually stolen an item.

Criminal Enterprise

On the other end of the spectrum are professional criminals and thieves who solely steal for financial gain and profit. Professional shoplifters would often target items that are both small and have a particularly large resale value with little risk, for example, the likes of clothing accessories and fragrances make a particularly profitable theft – especially if they’re unguarded as they make easy pickings for career criminals.

why do people shoplift

What Are The Signs Of A Typical Shoplifter?

There are a variety of signs to keep an eye out for to identify shoplifters in a store or retail environment such as –

Working In Groups

One key factor to look out for is groups, although many may portray shoplifters as typically in lone groups, many shoplifters actually work in organised groups, gangs or pairs – more often than not, one or more people will try to distract staff or even security whilst another member of the group or pair will commit the crime whilst all staff are distracted.

Another tactic even involves sending staff to a separate section of the store so the section being stolen from remains unwatched and is more vulnerable to theft.

Carrying Bags Or Coats

Many thieves may include heavy bags or coats on their persons in a way to conceal items easier – this may be a particularly suspicious thing to look out for during winter months when there is no need for thick and warm clothing.

Switching Price Labels

Particularly enterprising fraudsters may even swap price labels on items so that items may ring at a lower price, this may be a particular problem for smaller stores with no standardised barcode system.

Refund Fraud

In a similar vein of fraud, many shoplifters may try to defraud a store by trying to refund an item that wasn’t previously purchased at that store for cash.

how can you protect yourself against shoplifters

How Can You Protect Yourself Against Shoplifters?

After learning about why people shoplift and what signs to look out for, how can you protect your own store better against shoplifters?

Train Staff

It may be beneficial to train staff to keep an eye out for some of the factors listed below as well as being sure that everyone is keeping a vigilant eye on the storefront wherever possible, keeping an eye on particularly suspicious activity

Fit Security Measures

Many practical security measures can be taken to secure a retail or store environment including –

  • Installing security tags on high-value items
  • Purchase visible CCTV to deter theft
  • Utilising a store layout that puts item security first, with the entrance and exit always visible to the till.

Hire Security

Better yet, it may even be a good idea to hire a professional retail security service to protect your store from theft. Professional security guards serve as an excellent visual deterrent for shoplifters and may stop many potential thieves in their tracks.

Many security services also offer CCTV monitoring services to keep an eye on your retail environment’s cameras and communicate with shopfloor staff and security.

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


This article has covered why people shoplift, some of the common signs of shoplifters and some information on how you can protect yourself against shoplifters.

If you’ve liked today’s article, be sure to keep up to date with all of our latest retail security news on our official Blog where you can read articles such as 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.

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