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Understanding shoplifting of fast-moving consumer goods: an application of the CRAVED model


This study examines the variation in theft of shoplifted fast-moving consumer goods. Typically, shoplifting is estimated using shrinkage—a composite of several causes of lost retail merchandise. This study, however, benefits from access to a retailer’s database, in which extraordinary steps are taken to identify and record losses due to shoplifting only. This study is unique because of the more valid measure of shoplifting. A 1-year cross-sectional sample of 7468 products, sold in 204 U.S. chain supermarkets, was drawn from the retailer’s specialized database. Using Clarke’s (Hot products: understanding, anticipating, and reducing demand for stolen goods. Policing and Reducing Crime Unit, Paper 112, Home Office, London, 1999) CRAVED model of theft, products’ theft rates were correlated to the attributes consistent with the most vulnerable targets of theft. The results show that theft rates of products were significantly correlated to the measures for CRAVED. Regression analysis indicated that the measures for CRAVED were significant predictors of theft. Specifically, products were stolen more often when they were more Concealable, less Available, more Valuable, Enjoyable, and more Disposable. The most frequently stolen types of products were several types of cosmetics—primarily small but expensive products (e.g., eye, nail, lip products). Additionally, electronics, toys, and games had high theft rates. Implications for retailers, manufacturers, and governments are discussed. Suggestions for further research are also considered.

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  1. For example, an EAS “soft tag” that is peeled off a product’s outer packaging and discarded.

  2. Food items (e.g., meat and milk) were not included in the sample because (1) the retailer did not include foods in their “known-theft” database; (2) most foods are not stolen for trade or illicit selling purposes; and (3) the retailer reported that foods were not given the same level of loss prevention and surveillance as other non-food products. However, these products are FMCGs and two (meats and cheeses) have been known to be frequently stolen FMCGs (Bamfield 2012a). The only exceptions were for vitamin and nutrition products—these are considered over-the-counter drugs and supplements.

  3. There were a small group of items that could not easily be shoplifted and were questionable if they were “fast-moving” goods (e.g., lawn chairs, televisions).

  4. Certain products could not be selected and stolen by shoplifters because they were inaccessible to customers. Some of these products were kept in locked cases on the sales floor—namely infant formula and certain brands of razor cartridges. Further, all tobacco products were held behind the customer service counter, while pharmacies held OTC drugs containing pseudoephedrine and others behind the counter.

  5. This is different from the quantity of individual products, which was discussed earlier in the dependent variable section. As mentioned in the section on the dependent variable, some products were displayed in greater quantities than others on the sales floor. Further, the number of product lines often reflected the number of brands per product type.

  6. Acceptable ranges for VIF scores = 1.04–1.51; Tolerance scores = 0.66–0.95.


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Many thanks are due to Ron Clarke for his considerable advice and guidance. The retailer is sincerely thanked for allowing access to their unique and valuable database. Robert Chase is thanked for helping to focus the paper early-on. The peer reviewers and editors are thanked for helping to improve the content of the paper.

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Correspondence to Brian T. Smith.

Appendix 1: Product categories with examples of products

Appendix 1: Product categories with examples of products

Adult Incontinence: Male and female absorbing underwear, pads, diapers

Analgesics Aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen

Antacids Tums, Alka-Seltzer, Pepto-Bismol, Prevacid, Prilosec, Zantac

Automotive accessories Maintenance fluids, air fresheners, interior and exterior clean/shine sprays

Basic soaps Bath/shower bar soaps, hand soap, body wash, antibacterial soaps (all are for basic cleanliness purposes (e.g., Dial, Zest, Ivory)

Bath accessories Specialty soaps, bath trays, soap dishes, dispensers, toothbrush holders, tub baskets

Batteries Alkaline, 9 V, AAA, AA, C, D, assorted watch/smaller sized; Lithium AA, AAA

Cell phone accessories Holsters, chargers, cables, cases, screen protectors

Clothing and shoe care shoe cleaning, polish, clothing patches, sewing products, dry cleaning

Cold and cough Tablets, liquids, nasal sprays, containing cough expectorants, suppressants, etc. (includes products containing DXM)

Contraceptives Condoms, pregnancy tests, personal lubrication, spermicides

Cosmetic and hair accessories nail clippers, tweezers, makeup brush

Deodorants Male/female/clinical strength, anti-perspirants, anti-odor, bars, sticks, sprays, gels

Diet and weight loss Weight loss pills, energy drinks, nutrition supplement drinks, caffeine pills

Eye and ear All eye drops and ear drops; topical ear treatments

Eye cosmetics Eyeshadow, eyelash/mascara, eyebrow color, eyeliner

Face cosmetics Foundation, blush, makeup remover, concealer

Feminine hygiene Tampons, Maxi Pads, Anti-infective washes, sprays, creams, gels

Film and memory cards Camera film, SD memory cards, USB flash drives

First-aid Band-aids, bandages, braces, slings, antiseptics, anti-infectives, dressing, topical remedies

Foot care Topical applications for blisters, corns, etc., shoe inserts

Hair coloring Hair dye, highlights, color shampoos/conditioners, beard coloring, cut/nick remedies

Hair finishing Treatments, gels, sprays, mousse

Hardware and tools Basic tools—hammers, screwdrivers, screws, cleaners/polishes for wood, stone, metals, extension cords, door knobs/locks, lubricants, adjustable wrenches, pliers, utility tools and knives, rope

Household electrical Phone, TV, speaker accessories; wiring, adapters, plugs, recordable CD, DVD, VHS

Kitchenware Cooking trays, pots, pans, cutlery, silverware, can openers, spatulas, measuring cups, peelers

Laxatives Fiber drinks, tablets, suppositories

Light bulbs Assorted sizes, colors, brightness for common house lights

Lip cosmetics Lipstick, lip gloss, lip treatments

Skin moisturizers Facial therapy lotions, masks, anti-acne creams, pore cleansers, treatments

Nail cosmetics Nail polish, lacquer, enamel, remover

Office and school paper (computer/notebooks, pads etc.) writing (pens, pencils), color (markers, crayons, permanent), office supplies (tape, paper clips, post-its)

Oral hygiene Toothpaste, non-powered toothbrushes, floss, mouthwash, treatments for gums/teeth

Printer ink refills Inkjet printer replacement cartridges (for most common household printers)

Shaving and grooming Razors, razor cartridges/refills, shaving creams, aftershave and pre-shave lotions

Sinus and allergy Antihistamines, decongestants (all but those containing pseudoephedrine)

Toys and games All toys, any games (cards, board)

Underwear and Hosiery Men’s, women’s underwear, socks. Pantyhose

Vitamins and supplements All non-FDA approved—vitamins, supplements. Includes sexual enhancement drugs

  1. Examples listed are not exhaustive of category

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Smith, B.T. Understanding shoplifting of fast-moving consumer goods: an application of the CRAVED model. Secur J 31, 428–450 (2018).

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