Unmasking the Most Stolen Items from Walmart: A Comprehensive Analysis

Walmart, the retail giant known for its unbeatable prices and vast product selection, attracts millions of shoppers every day. However, amidst the hustle and bustle of busy aisles, a sinister problem lurks: shoplifting. In this in-depth article, we‘ll explore the top 20 most stolen items from Walmart, delving into the reasons behind their popularity among shoplifters and the impact on the company‘s bottom line.

The Top 20 Most Stolen Items from Walmart

  1. Cosmetics and beauty products
  2. Portable electronics (e.g., headphones, earbuds, and smartwatches)
  3. Meat and seafood
  4. Alcohol
  5. Cell phone accessories
  6. Baby formula
  7. Sunglasses and eyewear
  8. DVDs, Blu-rays, and video games
  9. Razor blades and shaving accessories
  10. Over-the-counter medications
  11. Cigarettes and tobacco products
  12. Jewelry
  13. Sporting goods
  14. Denim jeans
  15. Swimsuits and beachwear
  16. Laundry detergent and household cleaning supplies
  17. Batteries
  18. Teeth whitening strips and dental care products
  19. Perfume and cologne
  20. Small kitchen appliances

These items share common characteristics that make them attractive to shoplifters, such as their small size, high value, and ease of concealment. For example, cosmetics and beauty products can be quickly slipped into pockets or bags, while expensive portable electronics are often left unsecured on shelves.

The Financial Impact of Shoplifting on Walmart

Shoplifting takes a significant toll on Walmart‘s profits, with the company losing billions of dollars each year to theft. According to the National Retail Federation‘s 2020 National Retail Security Survey, the average shrink rate (which includes shoplifting, employee theft, and other forms of inventory loss) for retailers in the United States was 1.62% of total sales. For a company like Walmart, with annual revenue of $524 billion in fiscal year 2020, this translates to a staggering loss of nearly $8.5 billion.

Year Retail Shrink Rate Walmart Annual Revenue (Billion USD) Estimated Shoplifting Loss (Billion USD)
2020 1.62% $524.0 $8.5
2019 1.38% $514.4 $7.1
2018 1.33% $500.3 $6.7
2017 1.44% $485.9 $7.0
2016 1.38% $482.1 $6.7

Data sources: National Retail Federation, Walmart Annual Reports

Factors Contributing to Shoplifting at Walmart

Several factors contribute to the high rates of shoplifting at Walmart:

  1. Store layout: The massive size of Walmart stores can make it challenging for employees to monitor all areas effectively.
  2. Limited security measures: While Walmart employs loss prevention officers and security cameras, the sheer volume of customers and products can make it difficult to detect and prevent all instances of shoplifting.
  3. Socioeconomic factors: Some shoplifters steal due to financial hardship or poverty, while others may suffer from addiction or mental health issues.

Dr. Rachel Shteir, a professor at the Theatre School at DePaul University and author of "The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting," explains, "Shoplifting is a crime of opportunity. People who would never otherwise steal may do so if the opportunity presents itself and the risk of getting caught seems low."

Organized Retail Crime and Walmart Shoplifting

Organized Retail Crime (ORC) is a growing concern for retailers like Walmart. ORC refers to professional shoplifting gangs that steal large quantities of merchandise to resell for profit. According to the National Retail Federation, ORC costs retailers an average of $719,548 per $1 billion in sales.

Ben Dugan, President of the National Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail (CLEAR), states, "Organized retail crime is a serious issue that affects not only retailers but also communities across the country. These criminal networks are sophisticated, well-funded, and constantly evolving."

Walmart has taken steps to combat ORC, such as investing in advanced surveillance technology and collaborating with law enforcement agencies. However, the problem persists, and retailers continue to seek new solutions.

The Resale Market for Stolen Goods

The resale market for stolen goods is a significant driver of shoplifting at Walmart and other retailers. Online marketplaces like eBay, Amazon, and Facebook Marketplace have made it easier for thieves to sell stolen merchandise to unsuspecting buyers.

According to a 2020 report by the Buy Safe America Coalition, the sale of stolen and counterfeit goods on Amazon alone costs retailers over $15 billion annually. This lucrative resale market incentivizes shoplifters to target high-value items that can be easily sold online.

Psychological Motivations Behind Shoplifting

While some shoplifters steal out of financial necessity or for personal use, others may be driven by psychological factors such as kleptomania or other impulse control disorders.

Kleptomania is a rare psychiatric disorder characterized by an irresistible urge to steal items that are not needed for personal use or monetary value. According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, the lifetime prevalence of kleptomania is estimated to be 0.3% to 0.6%.

Dr. Jon Grant, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Chicago, explains, "Kleptomania is a complex disorder that often co-occurs with other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Treatment typically involves a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication."

Ethical Concerns Surrounding Anti-Shoplifting Technology

As retailers like Walmart invest in advanced anti-shoplifting technology, such as facial recognition and AI-powered surveillance, concerns about privacy and potential misuse have emerged.

Critics argue that these technologies could be used to discriminate against certain demographics or infringe upon customers‘ civil liberties. Additionally, the accuracy of facial recognition systems has been called into question, with studies showing higher error rates for people of color and women.

Liza Womack, a privacy expert and senior counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, cautions, "While retailers have a legitimate interest in preventing theft, they must also respect their customers‘ privacy rights. The use of facial recognition and other invasive surveillance technologies should be subject to strict oversight and regulation."

Innovative Loss Prevention Strategies

As shoplifting continues to evolve, retailers are exploring new and innovative ways to combat the problem:

  1. Invisible barcodes: Some retailers are experimenting with invisible barcodes that can only be detected by special scanners, making it more difficult for shoplifters to identify and remove security tags.
  2. Artificial intelligence: AI-powered video analytics can help retailers detect suspicious behavior in real-time, alerting security personnel to potential shoplifting incidents.
  3. Collaborative efforts: Retailers are increasingly collaborating with law enforcement agencies and industry organizations to share information and best practices in the fight against shoplifting.

Rhett Asher, Vice President of Asset Protection at the Retail Industry Leaders Association, emphasizes the importance of collaboration: "Retailers must work together and with law enforcement to combat the growing problem of shoplifting and organized retail crime. By sharing intelligence and resources, we can more effectively prevent theft and hold criminals accountable."


Shoplifting remains a significant challenge for Walmart and other retailers, with a wide range of items being targeted by thieves. By understanding the most stolen items, the factors contributing to shoplifting, and the evolving tactics of criminals, retailers can develop more effective strategies to prevent theft and protect their bottom line.

As technology advances and public awareness grows, the fight against shoplifting will continue to evolve. Innovative solutions, collaborative efforts, and a commitment to balancing security with customer privacy will be essential in the ongoing battle against retail theft.

Through a combination of advanced technology, employee training, and partnerships with law enforcement, retailers like Walmart can work to reduce shoplifting and create a safer shopping environment for all customers. Ultimately, the success of these efforts will depend on a willingness to adapt, innovate, and remain vigilant in the face of an ever-changing retail landscape.