Quarter of Brits have shoplifted

Eir NolsoeData Journalist
March 16, 2020, 11:37 AM GMT+0

Shoplifting is equally common among men and women, but men are more likely to do it for fun

New YouGov research reveals that one in twenty Brits (5%) have shoplifted as an adult, and 23% nicked an item as a child.

Pinning down the typical shoplifter is hard. Stealing from shops is equally common among both genders and across social grades. But a closer look reveals that women and men tend to pilfer for different reasons – and so do people in ABC1 and C2DE occupations.

Nearly two out of five petty thieves say they’ve stolen something because they couldn’t afford to pay – the most typical reason. This is more common among female (48%) than male (30%) shoplifters. Equally, there is a noticeable difference between ABC1 (33%) and C2DE (44%) thieves.

Over a quarter of all shoplifters have pinched something they could afford but simply didn’t want to pay for, while just over a fifth did it for the thrill.

A smaller proportion say they couldn’t be bothered to queue (13%), while one in nine did it just for a laugh (11%).

Male thieves enjoy pointless pilfering more, with about one in seven (15%) having pocketed an item for fun, compared with only 6% of female pinchers. Stealing for fun is also more common among light-fingered ABC1s at 16% than C2DEs at 5%.

Young generations have softer views on shoplifting

While policing of shoplifting has softened in recent years, with only items worth over £200 warranting an investigation, most Brits still say it is never acceptable (73%). Just over a fifth think it can be under certain circumstances, and 1% say it’s fine all the time.

Younger people generally have more lenient views of theft from shops. Two in five 18- to 24-year-olds say it’s sometimes okay, in contrast to only 12% of people aged 55 or older.

People who think shoplifting can be excusable overwhelmingly say it’s acceptable if you’re starving (88%), while 40% think it’s okay if you’re poor. Stealing from a large business is viewed as more acceptable (16%) than from a small or independent shop (1%). And only 2% think a long queue is a valid excuse.

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