Retailers are investing 23 per cent of the total cost of shrinkage in technology to combat theft, according to research. And the insight is paying off.

The Checkpoint Systems- sponsored European Retail Theft Barometer surveyed 423 retailers across 24 countries, representing 20 per cent of European retail trade. The study found that retailers lost£20.47 billion worth of stock through customers, suppliers staff and internal error in the past year. Meanwhile, they spent£4.79 billion on theft- prevention.

Shrinkage was less than last year. In the UK it has dropped from 1.81 per cent in 2000 to 1.59 per cent this year.

However, the UK was second worst for retail crime this year, after Poland. UK retailers have tried to counter this by spending more on anti-shrinkage technology, which has increased by 18 per cent in just three years.

Worryingly, UK store staff accounted for more theft than elsewhere in Europe. Staff theft was 36 per cent of shrinkage, compared with a European average of 29 per cent.

House of Fraser head of loss prevention Jerry Carter said that ever-more stringent theft- prevention measures across the department store chain kept shrinkage in decline.

Crime tended to be worse at House of Fraser’s city-centre stores, and was worst in the Southeast. Thieves also tended to target branded goods.

The retailer claimed that employee theft was below the UK average.

The report also found that ‘greater disillusionment with the effectiveness of the criminal justice systems around Europe’ was a key motivation for retailer ‘investment in in-store detection technology’.

Carter said that the police’s responsiveness to retail crime varied across the UK. He added that some forces were very pro-active, launching highly sophisticated retail crime units, while others found higher priorities that pushed retail crime down the list.

‘It is not that retailers are taking crime prevention into their own hands, it’s more trying to deter it from happening in the first place,’ said Carter.

Key measures at House of Fraser include bi-annual stock checks, CCTV, training staff to be alert, putting security tags on stock, controlling high risk areas such as fitting rooms, and manning exits with vigilant security staff to trap thieves leaving the store.