Retailers suffered the highest level of theft for nine years in 2013, according to a survey conducted by the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
It said the direct cost of crime to retailers was £511 million, 166% higher than in 2007/2008. There were 631,391 incidents of customer theft reported in 2012-13 and thefts per 100 stores increased 5% on 2011-12.
The average value of customer theft also rose, up 62% on last year, which the BRC attributed to the impact of organised crime gangs, who are systematically targeting higher value items.
Of those thefts, retailers only reported 9% to the police. Fraud increased by 15% in 2012/2013 and accounted for 41% of the total cost of retail crime.
"Far from being victimless, we all pay for this increased stealing through higher prices and, increasingly, shop closures and damage to town centres as safety is reduced and communities are blighted,” said BRC director general Helen Dickinson.
"Last year we also saw a dramatic increase in fraud and e-crime with eight in ten retailers reporting a rise in fraud and the majority of retailers telling us that cyber-attacks pose a critical threat to their business. Combined with the increase in organised theft, this means that retailers are facing an increasingly sophisticated criminal.”
The trade body estimated that there were 2.7 million offences in 2012-2013 against retailers, directly adding £511 million to retailers’ costs.
It said the number of burglaries fell by 49% compared to last year, but the cost of each incident rose from £1,730 to £2,067. The average cost per incident of criminal damage jumped by 114% in 2012-13, from £962 to £2,062.
The BRC is calling for a single, national, definition for business crime in the UK to help measure and solve these problems. Police forces should routinely publish business crime data, share that with retailers and work in partnership to combat crime, the BRC said.