More than 90 per cent of retailers said retail crime has increased over the last year, with more than four fifths blaming the recession.

The findings of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) crime survey is at odds with the Home Office British Crime Survey, also published today, which reports no change in most crime types.

The BRC found half of retailers report retail crime has increased by between 11 and 20 per cent, with more than 90 per cent citing an increase in shop theft.

Nearly 80 per cent of retailers have responded to the increase in crime by boosting their spending on crime prevention, including more CCTV, product protection and better staff training.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “Retail crime is not victimless. It unnecessarily forces up costs for retailers and their customers. It also increases staff intimidation.

“We expect everyone involved in law enforcement and criminal justice to treat shop crime with the same seriousness. Police must understand the importance of a thriving retail sector to communities and the need to respond promptly to incidents. Repeat offenders and those who threaten our staff must be prosecuted properly.”