The Age-restricted Products Review Group, which includes the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), the National Federation of Retail Newsagents and the Co-operative Group among its members, put forward 12 recommendations including a call for responsibility and sanctions for underage sales to be shared by business, young people and adults who buy on their behalf.
A code of practice for test purchasing was also called for in the report, which was compiled as part of an independent investigation for the Local Better Regulation Office.
Group chairman Geoffrey Budd said: "Retailers take their responsibilities to their communities very seriously and I believe the sector is entitled to be embraced as part of the 'front line' in this campaign. What the law currently requires of them is often hard to deliver."
The report says retailers want to stop underage sales, but find the regulations brought in to tackle this issue place huge burdens on their business.
ACS public affairs manager Jenny Brown added: "Effective enforcement has to encompass actions against the individuals who willingly buy and supply alcohol to under-18s and the young people themselves who seek to obtain products by deception. This report points to a fairer and more holistic approach to underage sales enforcement."
It comes just two weeks before all retailers are required to have age-verification policies for the sale of age-restricted goods.