Why thieves love to steal razors


thief stealing razors



The last few years, pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens have attracted attention for locking up seemingly random items.

Toothpaste. Candy. Deodorant.

But one item almost always makes sense to keep behind plexiglass: razors.

Although razors are hardly the most expensive products in the store, data indicates they get stolen up to 2.5x as often as other products.

Why are razors such a hot item for thieves?

One reason: they’re a hot item for everyone.

Many adult women and men shave at least twice a week, and the American Academy of Dermatologists recommends replacing razor blades (or cartridges) after five to seven shaves.

Basically, people need razors and cartridges all the time. And, according to longtime crime theorist Marcus Felson, “the same principles that make something worth buying make it worth stealing.”

Thieves crave this consistent demand.

As one British thief explained in a study by criminologist Mike Sutton: “If I come across something, the first thing I think of before I take it is: ‘Can I sell it?’”

The razors get resold online and at flea markets, corner stores, and neighborhood bars.

Given their size, they’re also easy for thieves to slip under their shirts in large quantities, giving them a high value per pound.

“Check out something in the store that doesn’t get stolen, and you’ll find that it’s lower value per pound,” Felson says.

For example:

  • A three pack of Venus disposable razors retails for $6.99 at Target and weighs 0.14 pounds, providing a per-pound value of ~$50.
  • A spiral notebook ($1.39/0.62 pounds), which is rarely locked up, has a per-pound value of ~$2.24.
  • A Whirlpool mini fridge ($159.99/61 pounds) has a per-pound value of ~$2.60.

And while a one-time purchase of a razor is less expensive than a refrigerator, costs for replacement cartridges can add up, increasing the appeal of buying black market goods.

Cost of popular razors

  • Gillette Mach3: $8.99
  • Schick Quattro (plus three extra cartridges): $13.49
  • Gillette Venus Comfortglide (plus extra cartridge): $9.99

Cost of one replacement cartridge

  • Mach3: $2.87
  • Quattro: $1.87
  • Venus: $4.50

If someone shaved with a Mach3 twice a week and replaced the cartridge every five shaves, they’d spend $66.39 per year.

The Mach3 has been a dominant product for Gillette, especially in the early 2000s before the advent of popular D2C razor brands.

At the time, Gillette claimed the Mach3 accounted for more sales than every competing brand’s entire razor offerings combined.

Not surprisingly, the Mach3 was also popular with thieves.

“[Shoplifters] used to put ten or 20 in their jacket and get £5 a packet easy,” another British thief explained in the study by Sutton.

In the early 2000s, the Boston Globe reported the Mach3 to be the “single most frequently stolen retail item in the United States and Europe.”

The Centre for Retail Research in London estimated 5% of all Mach3 products were stolen in Europe — compared to a “shrinkage” rate of 1.5%-2% for the average retail item.

Of the stolen Mach3 razors, about half were taken from Gillette and its distributors; the other half were taken from retailers.

The losses typically harm stores far more than razor manufacturers.

Before selling to Procter & Gamble for $57B in 2005, Gillette reported an operating profit margin of ~37% in its blades and razors department.

Stores’ profits are a fraction of that. CVS typically has an operating profit margin between 2%-6%.

Read Hayes, director of the Loss Prevention Research Council, told Florida Trend that a retailer might make as little as 5 cents on a $14 razor and cartridge pack — less than 1%.

So it’s no wonder that many stores opt to lock up their razors. But even that decision has drawbacks.

  • Stores must hire more employees
  • Employees demand more pay for the annoying work of unlocking cases for customers
  • Customers don’t want to bother with locked cases and shop at an ecommerce site

Those pressures give retailers a difficult choice.

Felson, however, has an easy razor shopping routine that sidesteps the problem: He buys a standard razor and refills it with double-edge blades that are made in foreign countries and sold on Amazon.

“They’re just as good,” he says.


Topics: Crime

Get the 5-minute news brief keeping 2.5M+ innovators in the loop. Always free. 100% fresh. No bullsh*t.