Retail theft rose by a third in 2009, with an incident occurring almost every minute, while violence and abuse against shop workers doubled.
According to the survey, there were 22,000 incidents of physical or verbal abuse against retail staff over the 12-month period, rising by 58% and 37% respectively compared with 2008.
BRC director general Stephen Robertson said that two-thirds of incidents went unreported and he urged retailers and staff to not just accept violence and verbal abuse as "part of the job". They should be reporting every crime that occurs, he said.
Robertson also called for harsher penalties for offenders. "Punishments must be strong enough to deter thieves, and the police should measure workplace violence when they assess business crime in the community and determine local policing priorities," he added.