UK retailers have lost £2.34 billion to shrinkage in the last 12 months, with employee theft being the biggest cause, a new poll has revealed.

The UK Retail Fraud Survey 2016, conducted by Retail Risk – London, found that 68% of the 34,950 stores surveyed cited employee theft as their top area of loss.

The news comes four months after it was reported that a Victoria’s Secret employee plundered £18,000 worth of lingerie by wearing the goods under his clothes to avoid detection.

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47-year-old Pablo Munoz, who worked as a contract cleaner at the retailer’s New Bond Street store, was only rumbled when a shop manager asked him to drop his trousers, which revealed he was wearing lingerie over his underwear.

Shrinkage rates vary by retail sector from mass merchants and department stores at 2.68% of sales to a low of 0.25% of sales for hospitality and leisure retailers, the survey found.

However, mass merchants and department stores have seen a 58% increase in shrinkage rates since last year, while hospitality and leisure retailers have seen a decrease of 38%.

Paul Bessant of Retail Knowledge, which published the report, said: “Over the past few years the retail landscape, with the advent of omni-channel retail, has changed beyond all recognition, and with it, so has Loss Prevention. The nature of threats with which the LP department is now expected to deal has changed too.

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“With this redrawing of the lines of risk comes increased responsibilities for those who traditionally confined themselves to a narrower LP function, as well as greater opportunity to support and contribute to the business. The signs are that these new approaches are working well, as you will see by this year’s shrink figure and the Survey on the whole. However, it is also clear that there is no room for complacency.”