UK stores suffer bigger losses to retail theft than any other country in Europe, a new report has revealed. The annual Global Retail Theft Barometer, compiled by the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) for Checkpoint Systems, shows that retail theft is a growing problem for the UK, with more than £4bn-worth of stock stolen in the past 12 months.

External theft from shoplifters accounted for 42.6% of total shrinkage, while 34% was down to dishonest employees.

Merchandise theft is the highest source of loss by fraudulent employees, while cash, coupons and vouchers represent the second most commonly stolen items. Refund fraud and false price markdowns are the third largest source. High-value alcohol products, specifically whisky, vodka and Champagne, continue to be the most commonly stolen items, followed by cosmetics, skincare, women’s wear, perfumes, razor blades, DVDs and clothing. Meat and cheese also figured highly in the list. Checkpoint Systems vice-president Neil Matthews blames the economic climate for rising theft levels. “The worse off people are, the more likely they are to turn to crime,” he said.

A further study by the CRR on retail theft at Christmas estimates that £768m will be stolen from UK retailers in the six weeks to the end of December. Retailers are expected to catch an estimated 99,000 shoplifters this Christmas, two-thirds of whom will be under 30. The study also found that females steal much larger amounts than men.