Retail theft up globally in 2009

Retail losses due to shoplifting and employee theft rose globally in 2009 -- and the United States was a country with one of the highest increases. What were the causes and how did the 41 countries surveyed compare?
Publish date:
Updated on

In a survey of thousands of retail businesses around the world, a British research firm found that retail theft had jumped in 2009, but retailers are still spending less on technologies to help hinder the bandits.

The report found “retail shrink” or “shrinkage” -- defined as stock loss from crime or waste and expressed as a percentage of retail sales -- was highest in Morocco, Mexico, South Africa and Thailand, but loss in North America was still above the average of the 41 countries represented.

Per findings by the Centre for Retail Research in Nottingham, England (, total global shrinkage cost the independent retailers in the study the equivalent of USD $114.8 million in 2009, equivalent to 1.43 percent of their retail sales. That equated to a cost per family of USD $208.39. The increase was related to the recessionary times, the center also concluded.

In the United States, the increase in theft in 2009 over 2008 was 8.8 percent of total sales or 1.61 percent of sales. On the high end, the increase in the loss in Thailand was 9.8 percent, but still only represented a total of 1.45 percent of sales. On the low end sits Austria; in fact, it is the only country below 1 percent at 0.99 percent and one of the only countries to have decreased its shrink. China and Japan are also very low. The only country that is above 2.0 percent is India with a loss in 2009 of 3.2 percent, up from 2008’s 3.1 percent.

Blame for the losses vary by country and region. Overall, shoplifting was seen as the major problem that retailers faced, accounting for 42.5 percent of shrinkage, or $48.9 billion. But in the United States, Canada and Australia, employee theft was considered a larger source of loss than shoplifting, with 35.7 percent ($15.1 billion) of the total loss in the United States blamed on goods being lifted by customers without paying, and 44.3 percent ($18.7 billion) stemming from employee fraud.

Items most often stolen in all countries included branded and expensive products such as cosmetics, apparel, perfume and designer items, with small goods such as DVDs, video games, small electric items and accessories also named as top goods stolen.

However, despite increases in loss and access to improved anti-theft technology, the research center, said global loss prevention costs were down over a year ago and were now equivalent to 0.31 percent of total retail sales.

To read the entire report, including a country-by-country list, go to the Centre for Retail Research report by clicking here

To see a November 2009 SNEWS story on deterring fraud with tighter return and shopping policies, click here.

To read a SNEWS report from April 2009 on how to deter employee theft and shoplifting, click here.

--Therese Iknoian


Johnson to set up "global center" in U.S.

Looking for a way to tap into the advantages of both overseas manufacturing and U.S. design while lowering the communications hurdle, Johnson Health Tech (JHT) will establish a global design and engineering center in the United States where both worlds will work together. "What more