Inventory shrinkage is the term used to describe the loss of inventory. For example, if the inventory records of a retailer report that 3,261 units of Product X are on hand, but a physical count indicates that there are only 3,248 units on hand, there is an inventory shrinkage of 13 units. The retailer's inventory shrinkage might be due to shoplifting, employee theft, damage, obsolescence, etc.

The term shrinkage is also used by manufacturers when referring to the loss of raw materials during a production process. For example, a manufacturer of baked food items will experience shrinkage throughout its processes due to ingredients adhering to the beaters and bowls, and also due to evaporation. This shrinkage is also known as spoilage or waste and it can be either normal or abnormal.

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