15 Most Popular Items People Steal During the Holidays

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These seasonal staples are the target of most shoplifters and organized retail criminals during the holidays.
Updated Feb. 5, 2024
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Theft, whether an online scam, pickpocketing, burglary, or shoplifting, is a big issue year-round. However, as the holidays approach, theft only becomes a more serious and prevalent issue.

While most retail stores are affected, small businesses often suffer the most. As many as 56% of small business owners expect there to be an uptick in theft during the upcoming holiday season.

If you’re a small business owner looking to keep more money in your bank account, or an employee looking to prevent loss, keep an eye on these items in particular.

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Smartphones

InsideCreativeHouse/Adobe young woman using smartphone

One of the biggest ticket items all year long, but especially during the holiday season, is smartphones. Just this spring, two thieves in Seattle broke into an Apple store through a neighboring coffee shop, stealing $500,000 worth of iPhones.

As these items are displayed in higher quantities in anticipation of holiday sales, it’s to be expected they’ll also be stolen in higher quantities — especially with coveted new models like the iPhone 15 rolling out.

Expensive headphones

Nina L/peopleimages.com/Adobe headphones to listen to music

Similarly, high-end headphones from brands like Airpods, Beats, and Bose are targeted by holiday thieves. These products can retail as high as $549, making them ideal for shoplifters.

Just like smartphones, they’ll be displayed in higher quantities and more highly sought after, giving sticky-fingered thieves a better chance to grab them off the floor. 

Earlier this year, some thieves in New York City were even resorting to ripping headphones off of people’s heads.

Computers

PaeGAG/Adobe asian woman working with laptop

In a similar vein, larger and more expensive gadgets, like computers and laptops, are likely to be swiped off shelves during the holidays.

Laptops are a great holiday gift, but they’re not cheap. Thieves can steal computers that retail for as much as $4,000, but resell them at much lower prices, all while making a profit.

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Miscellaneous electronic accessories

New Africa/Adobe Woman connecting charger to laptop

Along with higher-priced electronic items, smaller tech accessories will also be the focus of many holiday thieves. This can range from smaller necessities like chargers to pricier amenities like cases, stands, attachments, and more.

These items are likely going to be more vulnerable to seasonal theft, as most stores will station their employees near the pricer tech items. If you’re a tech store owner or employee, make sure you don’t forget about these items.

Designer items

agcreativelab/Adobe group of women wearing luxurious clothes and chanel bags while visiting paris fashion week

Clothing is also targeted by thieves during the holiday season, especially high-end, designer, and/or particularly trendy items. 

Holiday clothing campaigns draw in large crowds and create a high demand, making it easier for thieves to slip away with merchandise. It also creates an eager market to resell these items. 

Jewelry

dimj/Adobe embellished gold rings on white cloth

Jewelry theft is a serious issue, and it’s seemingly on the rise. The number of cases reported in 2022 was significantly higher than in 2021, and $129.4 million of losses were reported in 2022 alone. Jewel theft also usually involves a weapon, making it a more concerning crime.

Unfortunately, as jewelry is put on display for holiday sales, it becomes more susceptible to shoplifters and burglars.

Makeup

Rido/Adobe woman using cotton pads

Makeup, skincare, hair products, and other cosmetic goods can be incredibly expensive, especially from designer or high-end brands. Brands like Chanel sell foundations for as much as $150, and skincare products up to $510.

These items also make great gifts, though, making them a target of many thieves looking to resell them for cheap.

Furs

florinoprea/Adobe Fur coat

Luxury items tend to be targeted in a more concentrated amount during the holidays, from shoplifters, pickpockets, and even burglaries.

Studies report that luxury furs are stolen at an 8% higher rate during the holiday months as compared to other times of the year. 

Whether thieves are taking them to warm up during colder months, or to resell them at bargain prices, keep a close eye on your furs.

Alcohol

Christian Delbert/Adobe wine bottles decorated on wooden rack

Whether it be a convenience store, liquor store, or other general retailer, alcohol is another highly targeted item when it comes to shoplifting. Like jewelry, these instances can often turn into robberies, becoming more dangerous overall.

Again, alcohol is highly sought after during the holidays, especially expensive, top-shelf brands. Whether they’re swiping it for themself or to resell it, liquor thieves can leave with individual items worth as much as $4,700.

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Perfume and cologne

fotofabrika/Adobe perfume bottles

Another luxury product people often treat themselves to during the holidays is perfume, along with cologne. However, even lower-end perfumes are incredibly pricey.

Perfume theft has become such a widespread issue that Sephora has recently decided to remove all perfumes from its shelves and lock them behind displays, only leaving out tester bottles.

Winter clothes

yurakrasil/Adobe people in warm clothing in winter

Unfortunately, the holidays also bring harsh weather. While many people steal items during the holidays with the intent of reselling them, some people resort to theft out of desperation.

That being said, some shoplift high-end winter apparel, like luxury coats and scarves, out of greed and personal gain. In either situation, items like gloves and hats are particularly easy to nab, making them a problem for loss prevention teams.

Cigarettes

Kenishirotie/Adobe cigarettes stack on white blur background

Similar to alcohol, cigarettes and tobacco products are a major target of holiday shoplifters. Cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products are getting increasingly costly.

Thieves and burglars can make a decent profit selling them in large quantities for discounted prices, especially during the holiday season when higher-end products like cigars are in demand.

Toys

Krakenimages.com/Adobe female kindergarten teacher interacting with toddlers

In general, toys are one of the most targeted items by shoplifters and organized retail criminals. Naturally, during the holiday season, this becomes a more prevalent issue.

Toys are expensive, especially limited edition or highly sought-after, hard-to-find items. Thieves can make a pretty penny stealing them off shelves and reselling them at lower costs, or taking advantage of an item’s limited nature and jacking prices up.

Cleaning and maintenance items

Pixel-Shot/Adobe Female janitor with cleaning supplies

As stated earlier, the holiday months can be strenuous for many, and thieves take advantage of this. Items like cleaning products, detergents, and even formula are targeted at higher rates in general, but especially during the holidays.

Shoplifters can turn a profit selling these stolen items to those with little other options at lower prices, while smaller retailers deal with the consequences and have to raise prices even further in response.

Food

fadi/Adobe smoked prime rib on dark background

It feels like we’re all paying too much for groceries these days, but people tend to steal food at higher rates during the holiday months. In particular, holiday staples like turkeys, hams, or other pricey meats and delicacies can be targeted by shoplifters.

Meat, seafood, candy, and alcohol tend to be the most targeted items in general, with opportunity and means only increasing during the holidays.

Bottom line

nicoletaionescu/Adobe woman shopping with big sunglasses

Whether motivated by desperation or greed, shoplifting and theft are serious issues consumers and retailers alike deal with during the holiday season — and especially small business owners.

While there are numerous measures retailers can take to prevent loss during these crucial months, it’s also worth investigating and addressing underlying causes of shoplifting, such as economic strain, to help prevent the issue altogether.

You can also make sure you follow the best shopping hacks to make sure you avoid these situations and still find way to save money. 

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Author Details

Lucy Clark Lucy Clark has considerable experience writing about real estate, as well as homes and gardens, home value, and more. She is savvy and resourceful, and she aims to ensure others can be, as well.

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