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Retailers are worried about shrinkage.
That’s “an umbrella term for inventory lost via clerical error, damage and shoplifting,” MarketWatch says. About $13 billion worth of products is stolen every year, industry data indicate, and retailers are stepping up prevention efforts. More than $138 million was recovered from shoplifters last year, an increase of nearly 23 percent from 2011.
Here’s what people tend to steal most these days, according to MarketWatch:
- Cosmetics and personal care products, especially Rogaine, teeth-whitening strips, makeup and facial cream.
- Pregnancy tests, apparently because they’re easily resold online to people too embarrassed to buy in person.
- Jewelry, because it’s hard to tag and easily worn out of the store.
- Underwear, because multiple garments are easily snuck on in the dressing room and then invisibly walked out of the store.
- Condoms, in stores that don’t lock them behind glass, are easily pocketed. At least they probably reduce the need for stealing pregnancy tests.
Not all shoplifting is perpetrated by individuals acting alone. MarketWatch mentioned a shoplifting tactic where a store employee works with outsiders to steal merchandise.
A National Retail Federation study found that organized groups steal billions a year in merchandise, too. They often take it back to the store for credit or for gift cards, which they can exchange elsewhere for cash. That might explain the dirty looks we get when we return things without a receipt.