The figure was unveiled today in the British Retail Consortium's annual Retail Crime Survey, which also showed that shoplifting has soared 70 per cent and cost retailers£13.3 billion since 2000.
The BRC said that Government proposals to remove the possibility of prison as a penalty for shoplifters would only worsen the cost of the crime and increase the threat of violence against shop staff who tried to clamp down on the problem.
The figures come as Retail Week's campaign Take Retail Crime Seriously seeks to highlight the damage done by shoplifting.
BRC director-general Kevin Hawkins said: 'The huge increase in the number of shoplifting incidents is extremely worrying. It is having a very serious financial impact and is putting the safety and well-being of staff and customers at risk.'
He added: 'Soft penalties and poor enforcement are to blame. Retailers are spending millions of pounds on their own crime prevention, as well as contributing£4.5 billion a year in business rates. They are entitled to the support of the Government and police but, at the moment, they are not getting it.'
The survey, sponsored by security company ADT, also found that one in five smaller businesses thought it was likely to lose staff as a result of crime or violence.