Shopkeepers are feeling isolated in their fight against crime, according to a survey published by the British Retail Consortium.
Shopkeepers want more help in dealing with crime
They accuse police and the government of not doing enough to tackle thieves.
A survey of 10,054 outlets conducted by the BRC found retail staff felt "abandoned" by the authorities.
Nine out of 10 retailers believe shop crime is low on the government's agenda, while 77% say police response times are not good enough.
BRC director general Kevin Hawkins said an increase in shop crime was caused by weak penalties and poor enforcement of the law.
"These figures show shopkeepers feel they have been abandoned," he said. "Attempting to hand shoplifters over to the police has become time-wasting and futile.
"Too often they are not interested and even when there is a successful prosecution the penalties are derisory."
Some 86% of retailers questioned felt the government was failing to properly address the issue.
The findings are part of the 13th national Retail Crime Survey which will be published in full next month.
The survey's respondents account for 45% of total UK retail sales, according to the BRC.