The title alludes to the communist slogan "workers of the world, unite!" Morrissey has explained the meaning of the song as follows: "It's more or less spiritual shoplifting, cultural shoplifting, taking things and using them to your own advantage."
Morrissey has said that this is his favorite Smiths song. He sang it in his 1995, 1997, 1999/2000, 2004 and his 2007 concerts.
Suggestion credit: Brian - Wilmington, DE, for above 2
In 1997, Morrissey told KROQ that this song was penned during what he believes to be The Smiths' finest period: "Very, very witty single and a great moment for The Smiths in England. I think it was probably the best days of our career. It was just a very funny time and a time of very sparky rebellion, and this song, more than any, I think, exemplifies that. I like it."
Johnny Marr revealed to The Guitar Magazine in 1997 that Nils Lofgren of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band influenced the guitar work in this song: "You can hear Nils Lofgren's influence on me in the solo on 'Shoplifters Of The World Unite.' That's all done with false harmonics, which is a steel player's technique: you touch the strings with a right-hand finger an octave higher than where you're fretting, and then pluck the string with your thumb."