PEABODY — The undergarments worn by supermodels Heidi Klum and Gisele Bundchen on the catwalks and photo shoots are a hit, according to industry analysts — and the police.
The variety of lingerie at Victoria's Secret available at more than 1,000 stores across the country racked up more than $3.7 billion in sales in 2007.
But the unmentionable secret isn't just their products, but the apparel's black-market demand.
Case in point is a shoplifting incident on Friday at the Northshore Mall location that saw the loss of $5,600 worth of bras.
Peabody police spokesman Lt. Dennis Bonaiuto said a store manager reported a large quantity of bras missing from the rack shortly before 4 p.m.
Employees didn't see who took the bras, but two men were seen running out of the store moments earlier, Bonaiuto said.
Last week's theft is just the latest in a series of large-scale, highly organized shoplifting capers suffered by a number of Northshore Mall businesses, though Victoria's Secret is a frequent target.
In this year alone, there have been six reports of shoplifting at Victoria's Secret for an approximate total loss of more than $23,000. The store's bras can cost $50 apiece or more.
"It's easier to make a quick hit with 50 bras at that price," Bonaiuto said. "That leads us to conclude this is more of something along the lines of a professional shoplifter and not a shoplifter stealing for themselves. They have the ability to sell the items to someone else in some other type of market."
Those markets are typically online auction sites like eBay or out of cars and homes. A recent search on eBay for Victoria's Secret bras produced more than 4,260 entries last night.
Recent reports of shoplifting at Victoria's Secret include one on June 16, when $3,500 in undergarments went missing; $1,200 in merchandise stolen on May 3; $750 worth of underwear on April 2; $4,800 on March 26; $1,800 on Feb. 22; and $5,700 on Feb. 2.
The theft total may be a fraction of the millions of dollars in sales each store rings up each year, but company officials say they will "continue to work aggressively with law enforcement authorities to address acts of thefts committed in our stores."
"For obvious security reasons, we cannot discuss the specific measures we are taking," said company spokeswoman Jennifer Ortiz Brown.
There are steps Victoria's Secret and other stores can take to reverse their susceptibility to large-scale shoplifting incidents. The Police Department offers a program called Mall Watch that trains mall employees on security procedures and precautions.
One such tactic involves moving expensive items away from the store's main entrance and stationing employees there around the clock.