Retail crime is costing the sector an extra £1.4bn, soaring by 31% as the number of robberies increased alongside the value per incident, a report by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has found.

The BRC’s Retail Crime Survey 2011 found that although the number of customer theft incidents have fallen19%, robberies have soared 20% in 2011. Meanwhile, the average cost per customer theft grew 21% to £85.50 from £70.44.

The estimated total value of goods stolen by customers across the whole sector was over £147m, up £10m on 2010.

Retailers have also increased expenditure on crime prevention measures by 1.4% up to £214m, an average median spend of £700,000 per company. This has tackled opportunistic crime against stores but, concludes that the sector is being increasingly targeted by serious, organised criminals.

With an 83% rise in violent crime, as more than 35,000 retail workers suffered from physical attacks, verbal abuse and anti-social behaviour, the BRC is calling on law makers and enforcers to help combat it. Much of the rise is thought to be due to more staff encouraged to report incidences.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “What is left is a core of more serious and organised criminals who are making off with goods in larger quantities and of higher value. These are violent law-breakers who pose a danger to society at large, not solely the retail sector.

“Criminals targeting the retail sector need to be punished appropriately, particularly those who use weapons or attack staff. New sentencing guidelines coming into force today that recognise the impact of the riots are a start but need to go further.

“Too many thieves get let off with a fine and there is no comeback when they don’t pay it. There needs to be robust enforcement that reflects the serious impact violent or repeat offenders have on the retail sector and more widely on our communities.”