Irish Small & Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) has cautioned retailers to be vigilant during the Christmas period as shops are increasingly vulnerable to shoplifters and organised gangs, with losses to the tune of €9m a week.

ISME says over two thirds of all retail outlets across Ireland are susceptible to attacks by shoplifters over the Christmas period, with over 75% experiencing more than one incident.

The association has estimated Christmas losses in Ireland in the six weeks from mid-November to end-December to be as high as €54m, a rise of 5% on the 2013 figures.

ISME chief executive Mark Fielding said: "There is no doubt that shoplifters see the Christmas period as the ideal opportunity, as there are bigger crowds in stores, more stock on shelves and an increase in temporary staff, who may not have the experience to identify shoplifters. This is why retailers are twice as likely to be targeted over the festive season.

"At Christmas, shoppers buy more goods than they do at similar periods in other parts of the year and a percentage of shoppers certainly try to get the ultimate bargain, which is to pay nothing at all. Others purchase stolen goods from thieves, probably aware that the items have been obtained illegally, but thereby helping to promote the business of crime. Other goods will be stolen by organised gangs and retailed out by local operators or sold on to no-questions-asked buyers."

ISME also found that shoplifting almost trebles at Christmas compared to the rest of the year.

While common items being shoplifted include alcohol, electronic goods, phones, cosmetics, clothing and food products, a significant surge is also reported for luxury items, including designer labelled clothing, and expensive cosmetics and toys.

ISME advises retailers to take basic precautions including good store management, regular liaison with Garda Crime Prevention Office, good stock controls, and adequate security measures such as CCTV and in-house security officers.