Shrinkage costs UK retailers almost £11 billion a year and alcoholic drinks are the greatest contributor to that figure, according to new research.

Shoplifting is the main cause of shrinkage, followed by robberies and burglaries, while thieving staff, administrative errors, non-compliant use, waste, expired goods and damaged goods were also cited.

BWS was the category most likely to be hit by shoplifting, followed by cheese, meat, sweets and canned fish.

Mike French, business unit director at Checkpoint Systems UK, which conducted the research, said: “Shrinkage in the UK is the highest of any country in Europe, and despite high levels of investment in anti-shrinkage measures across the continent factors such as non-compliance and obsolete technology causing unsustainable levels of retail shrinkage.

“Retailers need to take urgent action to reduce this if they are to remain competitive and profitable.”

The firm urged retailers to spend time learning the modus operandi of shoplifters, and working on more robust countermeasures and security solutions to reduce shrinkage.

In Scotland, retailers claim shoplifting of beers, ciders, wines and spirits has increased as a result of minimum unit pricing being introduced last year.

The issue came to the fore last year when Blackpool Police began a search for a David Schwimmer lookalike who stole a crate of beer from a shop. The story went viral, as fans of Friends – in which Schwimmer played Ross Geller – made such speculations as: “Shouldn’t he be at work… or is he on a break?”