Convenience stores have been hit by an explosion in shoplifting – up five-fold in a single year.

A report by the group representing 49,000 small shopkeepers said they fell victim to an astonishing 5.6million thefts in 2023, rocketing from 1.1million incidents recorded the previous year.

Figures from the Association of Convenience Stores also revealed that there were 76,000 acts of violence in small shops last year, up from 41,000.

The soaring toll not only hits shopkeepers in the pocket and physically but leaves consumers paying the price.

Stolen products and anti-crime measures cost the average store £6,800 a year, meaning each time we go shopping we are effectively paying a 10p ‘crime tax’, according to the association.

Last night a spokesman said official police figures suggesting shoplifting is under control are simply not reflecting reality, with most cases not even reported.

He said: ‘We just want the police to take theft from shops seriously. Shopkeepers are fed up with phoning the police for half-an-hour to report an incident when mostly all they get is a crime number.’

The Mail on Sunday has launched an anti-shoplifting campaign and is calling on the police, prosecutors and courts to be much tougher.

The initiative also wants a change in the law to make abuse or violence towards shop staff a specific offence.

The huge growth in shoplifting from convenience stores means that, according to the survey, they now suffer 600 thefts every hour, across the country.

Retailers are trying to fight back, spending £339million last year alone on measures including CCTV, security staff, intruder alarms and internal communication systems.

Independent local stores are hardest hit as the larger convenience chains, such as the Co-op and Tesco Metro, have economies of scale and established systems for boosting security.

The main villains are drug addicts and alcoholics followed by organised crime gangs, sometimes stealing items such as meat, alcohol, and even sweets to order.

Often they target corner shops, threatening violence if caught before simply melting away into the neighbourhood.

Last year an astonishing 87 per cent of convenience store staff reported suffering verbal abuse.

This escalated to violence most regularly after thieves were confronted. Asking for proof of age or denying service to drunks also sparked attacks.

The association said the solution is for the Government and police nationwide to take action.

Its chief executive James Lowman added: ‘Retailers are facing an onslaught of crime on a daily basis, with some losing tens of thousands per year to theft.

‘This extended crimewave cannot be allowed to continue. Thieves are known to the community and the police but they continue regardless, filling baskets and trolleys and walking out without fear.

‘Nobody should have to face what retailers and their colleagues have faced over the past year.’

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