Shoplifting, employee theft and organized crime cost the global retail industry $119 billion in the 12 months ended in June, up 6.6 percent from a year earlier, according to survey results released on Tuesday.
A sluggish global economy and high unemployment likely contributed to the increase, Joshua Bamfield, director of the Center for Retail Research and author of the study, said.
But he also cited recent political and financial scandals.
Many people in every country feel that the political classes have let them down and probably bankers have let them down, Bamfield said, adding that may have given some people more psychological license to steal.
The amount lost to theft accounts for about 1.45 percent of total sales, the study said. The study is underwritten by an independent grant from Checkpoint Systems, which offers labeling and other technologies to help retailers prevent theft, know as shrink in the retail industry.
The countries with the highest theft rate include India, at 2.38 percent of sales, Russia, at 1.74 percent, and Morocco at 1.72 percent. The rate in the United States was 1.59 percent.
Employee theft and fraud accounted for 35 percent of the loss. Customer theft, including shoplifting and organized retail crime by gangs of criminals, accounted for 43.2 percent of the loss.
But in North America and Latin America, employee theft outpaces shoplifting, Bamfield said.
The survey, which has been conducted globally each year since 2007, showed that clothing and accessories experienced the most theft, at 1.87 percent of sales, with health and beauty products close behind at 1.79 percent.
(Reporting by Brad Dorfman in New York, editing by Bernard Orr)