Britain’s retail industry lost £603m to crime in fiscal 2013-14, an increase of 18% compared to the £511m fleecing the year before, according to research conducted by the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

As per an annual crime survey of the BRC, shoplifting, fraud and cyber-crime were at their highest since the start of its recording system in 2004, where organised gangs mostly targeted high value merchandise such as designer clothes, cosmetics, electrical goods, power tools and alcohol.

Director general of the BRC, Helen Dickinson, pointed out that criminals working in gangs made use of special equipments like foil-lined bags, de-taggers, etc. to dodge detection.

"Theft, a crime which has always affected retailers, continues to have a huge impact on the sector," said Dickinson. "This year’s survey has recorded the highest average value of customer theft in a decade. This reinforces the trend identified last year, which suggests that stores are increasingly the target for theft by organised, sophisticated groups."

Although the number of shoplifting cases — responsible for 81% of the crimes — decreased, there has been a surge from £177 to £241 in the average value stolen goods.

Accounting for 6% or £1,000 per incident was employee theft, with fraud going up by 12%.

The BRC report stated 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, a survey by retailers "estimated that 40% of shop theft is carried out by organised gangs, with the majority of fraud also attributed to activity by organised groups".

Dickinson said: "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."