Retail theft hit its highest level for nine years in 2012/2013 as more sophisticated thieves target designer goods.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) Retail Crime Survey has revealed that the average value of theft surged 62% to £177 per incident, which it said indicates that stealing is becoming more sophisticated and well-planned.

High-value items being stolen include electrical goods, designer clothing, handbags and power tools.

BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: “Theft from stores pushed the direct cost of retail crime up to £511m last year, 166% higher than five years ago. 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.”

The survey said retailers suffered 2.7 million offences in the year, costing them more than £500 million.

Some 80% of retailers also reported an increase in fraud last year. The majority of retailers say it poses a “critical threat” to their business, indicating a more sophisticated criminal.

Additionally, robberies were up 48% but burglaries fell 49% year-on-year. Despite the number of burglaries falling, the cost of each incident rose from £1,730 to £2,067.

The average cost per incident of criminal damage surged 114% from £962 to £2,062.

Dickinson added: “We want to work closely with Police and Crime Commissioners and the new National Crime Agency and National Cyber Crime Unit to fight this serious crime, from fraud, to theft, to cyber-attacks. Our engagement has been positive so far, but it is still early days and it is important that they implement measures such as single points of contact and create dedicated business crime strategies.”

The BRC wants there to be a single, national definition for business crime in the UK to measure and solve crime. It believes police forces should routinely publish business crime data, share information with retailers and work together to combat crime.

Retail theft reaches highest level for nine years