Crime cost the UK retail industry £603m in the 2013-14 financial year, 18% higher than the previous 12 months, according to new research.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said shoplifting, cyber-crime and fraud is now at its highest since its current recording system began in 2004.
Theft by organised criminal gangs had become a huge issue, the BRC said.
The value of goods, money or services stolen from stores is now worth an average of £241 per incident.
Although the volume of theft offences fell 4%, the BRC's annual crime survey said that gangs are targeting more expensive items and stealing in bulk.
The BRC report said that the "upward trend in the value of these offences is thought to be due to the continued impact of organised gangs stealing in volume and targeting higher value items to sell on".
It said retailers surveyed "estimated that 40% of shop theft is carried out by organised gangs, with the majority of fraud also attributed to activity by organised groups".
Items most frequently targeted included electrical goods, designer clothes, power tools and cosmetics.
The report found:
- there were 698,184 offences resulting in loss or damage to property in 2013-14, but said the true figure is more like 3 million
- customer theft made up the bulk of the criminal activity, accounting for 81% of all incidents
- retailers reported a total of 135,814 incidents of fraud, up 12% on the previous financial year
- there were five robberies per 100 stores in 2013-14, a 29% decrease but the cost per robbery fell only marginally, from £1,316 per incident in 2012-13 to £1,280 per incident in 2013-14
- retailers reported 58,014 incidents of violence and abuse
BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: "Criminal activity against UK retailers continues to have wide-ranging consequences for businesses, employees and the vast majority of honest shoppers.
"It is clear that retailers are facing an increasingly sophisticated criminal. Despite an average investment of £2m per business in crime and loss prevention, retailers need help and support to respond to the threat."