UK retailers have the highest stock shrinkage rates in Europe, with annual losses totalling nearly £4bn, according to the fifth annual European Retail Theft Barometer.

The survey by the Centre of Retail Research involves 440 retailers and was carried out in 25 countries. It shows that shrinkage levels in the UK have risen by 10.5% over the past year and that the UK comes second only to Iceland for employee theft.

However, the research also shows that the UK is at the forefront of finding ways of reducing theft. Losses dropped 13.2% in the past year, almost double that of any other European country. Spending on loss prevention in Europe rose by £287m, according the research, which contributed to a 6.7% drop in overall shrinkage, compared with 2.2% in 2004.