Retail crime is becoming more violent, involving organised criminals, and costs more than $1 billion a year, according to new research.
A study, by Retail NZ and University of Otago, shows that 38 per cent of retailers are seeing more brazen criminals than in previous years.
Theft by employees is also growing in significance, accounting for 18 per cent of losses now, compared to 12 per cent at the time of the previous survey in 2003.
Greg Harford, Retail NZ's general manager for public affairs, says retailers believe criminals are more aggressive than in the past.
"Retail crime no longer involves just petty theft from stores," he said.
"Retailers are reporting a sizeable number of violent and aggressive incidents every year, as well as more sophisticated fraud incidents.
"This shows that retailers need to be more alert to a range of criminal activity, as well as taking steps to protect their employees and customers from the threat of violence."
According to the research, retailers in New Zealand are spending more than $500 million on crime prevention, but the biggest firms are noticing a lower rate of crime if they take good security measures.
Mr Harford says nearly a third of retail crimes are not reported, because there is a perception police won't act or it is time-consuming to do so.
"It is heartening that 63 per cent of retailers think police do an OK or great job of managing crime, but an online tool or app would go a long way towards making it simple and easy for retail crime to be reported."
He said a dedicated group within the police to tackle retail crime and bringing in an "infringement ticket" style offence for petty theft would help.