Incidents of violence and abuse against shop staff doubled last year while thefts from shops rose by a third according to figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The BRC’s Retail Crime Survey 2009 assessed for the first time the proportion of crimes that go unreported to the police and it believes that taking these into account the number of shoplifting incidents are likely to have topped one million.

In 2008/2009 retail crime cost the industry £1.1bn, a 10% increase on the year before.

Physical attacks on shop staff worryingly rose 58%, the report found, whilst verbal abuse was up 37%.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “The increase in retail crime during the recession can’t be justified as a move from ‘greed’ to ‘need’. Whatever the motivation, shoplifting is never victimless or acceptable. The cash costs are met by honest customers who end up paying more and the human costs by shop staff who intervene.

 He added: “It’s shocking that a shop theft happens almost every minute, 24 hours a day. We need tougher sentencing to deter thieves and more consistent use of fixed penalty notices between police forces. Too many fines for shoplifting remain unpaid.  We need more effective enforcement so they aren’t devalued as a deterrent.”

To try and help curb rising retail crime the BRC is recommending that the police focus more on tackling crime against businesses and that there is more effective engagement between police and local shops.

It also wants local assessments and policing plans to include local retailers’ own experiences of business crime.