Theft cost retailers $44 billion last year, report finds

Shoplifting and organized crime have surpassed employee stealing as the biggest sources of retail theft for the first time in 24 years, a new survey found.

A report Wednesday from the National Retail Federation said businesses lost an estimated $44 billion in 2014 because of shoplifting, fraud or administrative error.

Shoplifting accounted for 38% of the losses; employee theft followed at 34.5%.

The average shoplifting incident cost retailers $317.84. Department stores suffered the highest average losses at $482.50 per incident, while grocery stores had the lowest with $96.83 per incident.

Despite the high numbers, 62.7% of the retailers surveyed said their losses either decreased or remained steady compared with previous years.

Items that can be easily obtained and sold are the biggest targets, such as razor blades, teeth whitening strips or other expensive beauty products, said Bob Moraca, the retail federation's vice president of loss prevention.

“They’re looking for physically smaller but higher-end items,” he said. “At the end of the day the cost is eventually passed on to the consumer.”

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times