The survey of 19 supermarket, c-store and forecourt chains found that in an average week in the UK there were 62,000 attempts to purchase alcohol by people under the age of 18 - one every 4.89 seconds based on a 12-hour trading day.
And since only half of the 9,000 stores covered by the survey kept data on the number of attempts made, the true scale of the problem could be even more dramatic.
Two thirds of retailers said that enforcement against retailers was not the best way to deal with the problem, calling instead for improved training and a joint approach between police, while others suggested a national ID card and better alcohol education in schools as more helpful ways forward.
Gavin Matthews, of Bond Pearce, said: “We commissioned the survey because we have seen a threefold increase during the past 9-12 months in cases where we have defended retail clients against enforcement proceedings.”
A survey by youth ID card supplier Connexions Card shows 59% of retailers are “very concerned” about abuse when asking customers for proof of age, with 52% saying their main fear is fines for inadvertently selling to the underaged. Nearly 40% of retailers say they have received no guidance from the authorities about how to avoid making underaged sales, while 37% said they were not confident about spotting fake ID cards. The survey quizzed retailers in Hull, Cheshire, Kent and Bristol.