Retail crime and administrative errors cost UK retailers £4.9bn in the year to June 2011, according to the latest Global Retail Theft Barometer.
Shrinkage as a percentage of sales in the UK was 1.37% on average, up 6.2% compared with 2010. Increases were seen in shoplifting and employee theft, while organised retail crime, defined as large-scale fraud and theft for resale, was perceived as a significant contributor to losses for the first time.
The report, published by the Centre for Retail Research in Nottingham and funded by Checkpoint Systems, revealed that the average amount stolen by shoplifters was £81.90, while dishonest employees took an average of £1,341.
Losses increased despite the fact that retailers spent £1bn on security measures in 2011, up from £977m last year. UK security spending as a percentage of retail sales was 0.23%.
Looking at different retail sectors, high shrinkage rates were found in the hardware, DIY and building materials sector (across Europe), while furniture, textiles and floor and window coverings were among the lowest rates.
Checkpoint Systems vice president (Northern, Central and Eastern Europe) Neil Matthews said: "The fact that retail theft - or shrinkage - has increased so significantly should not be taken lightly. The sheer truth of the matter is that the actions of these people end up costing innocent families financially, which is a cost the majority of people can ill-afford in this tough economic climate."
While commentators have often blamed the recession for any increase in crime, the barometer revealed that only 29% of UK security managers thought the recession was a main cause of increased crime.
Key factors seem to be a change in attitudes about theft by some sectors of society, a realisation that the police can only give a low priority to crimes against retailers and the fact that not much happens to most people caught stealing from shops, said the report.
UK retail shrinkage rates are below average levels across Europe however, with only eight European countries out of the 26 studied having shrinkage rates lower than the UK.