Retailers say the introduction of fixed penalty notices has led to a big increase in shoplifting.
Retailers say shoplifting cost the economy £2bn in 2006
In 2004, police were given the power to issue £80 fines instead of an arrest for first time offences and thefts of goods worth less than £200.
But the British Retail Consortium (BRC) says they encourage persistent shoplifters who know they will face "no serious sanction" if caught.
The Ministry of Justice insists it does take shoplifting seriously.
Shoplifting cost the economy £2bn last year, the BRC say.
And each individual paid an extra £90 in increased prices to compensate for it.
Richard Dodd, from the BRC, said the £80 penalty made no sense when the average value of good stolen was £150.
"Too many retailers feel police don't take retail crime seriously - it is way, way down on their list of priorities," he said.
"At government level sentencing is so weak that people are just not put off stealing from shops.
"A lot of these are people who are repeatedly stealing in order to fund a drug habit and they believe, unfortunately rightly, that there will be no serious sanction on them if they are caught."
The Ministry of Justice says shoplifting can be punished by up to seven years in jail.
But the new Justice Minister, Lord Falconer, has stated he would like to see more non-custodial sentences used for crimes like shoplifting.