According to the American Heritage Dictionary, Shoplifting is defined as "To steal merchandise from a store."
According to Wikipedia, Shoplifting is defined as "The act of knowingly obtaining goods from an establishment in which merchandise is displayed for sale, without paying for them."
Shoplifting under New York law is stealing store merchandise. Stealing, in the shoplifting context, is the wrongful taking, obtaining, or withholding of store merchandise with intent to keep it.
Shoplifting is a crime prosecuted under larceny statutes and many jurisdictions have established a specific category for shoplifting cases. This is because although shoplifting could be viewed as the same as any other larceny, store security, law enforcement, and prosecutors view it as a special type of larceny that is directed against the same type of victim (retail stores) and is committed more frequently than other larcenies.
The general elements of shoplifting include (1) taking store merchandise (2) with the intent to permanently keep it for one's personal use. Concealing store merchandise while still inside the store could signal an intention to shoplift. Covering merchandise or placing it in a bag could constitute concealment. Other actions consistent with an intention to wrongfully take store merchandise may constitute circumstantial evidence of shoplifting such as concealment in addition to changing floors, entering a restroom or fitting area, or attempting to leave while still in possession of the concealed store property.
Stores and law enforcement argue that shoplifting costs businesses billions of dollars in losses. In the second quarter of 2015, Wal-Mart reported greater than expected losses caused by "shrinkage", an industry term for shoplifting which caused Wal-Mart stock to drop over 3% in one day. Although any one single incidence of shoplifting involves a relatively small amount of merchandise, the cumulative effect is large enough to lower a major corporation's stock price.
Responding to pressure to reduce the prevalence of shoplifting, many retailers react aggressively if a customer is suspected of shoplifting by arresting the suspect while he/she is still in the store, calling the police, and pursuing civil damages which could lead to a civil law suit.