Retailers are being urged to make sure they are not being robbed by insiders.
According to accountants KPMG so-called "shrinkage" - stock lost to damage, mislaid or stolen items - should no longer be dismissed as simply an accepted facet of the retail trade.
Simon Purkess, partner at KPMG in Birmingham, said: "Retailers across the Midlands are currently investigating every possible avenue for cutting costs. Shrinkage is one of the few areas in which substantial savings can still be made.
"The Centre for Retail Research's European Retail Theft Barometer shows that the problem across Europe is falling, but that the UK remains the worst sufferer, with average shrinkage of just over 1.5 per cent based on the retail value of 'lost' products.
"That doesn't sound like a huge amount in percentage terms but for a business with a turnover of £100 million, it's £1.5 million worth of sales that haven't happened and the cost value of those products comes off the bottom line."
Part of the problem of tackling shrinkage is the industry's attitude towards it.
Many retailers believe that shrinkage is simply a cost of doing business - an inevitable by-product of an industry with large amounts of consumer products moving around in the system at any one time.
Another barrier to action is that a proportion of what is recorded as shrinkage is down to error and there are widely varying views on how much that is.
A retailer's headquarters needs to put practical measures in place in order to reduce the shrinkage issue for the benefit of all its stores, claims Mr Purkess.
These measures include a self assessment of risks to stock integrity and the controls that are in place to manage them, giving an overall picture of how well protected the retailer is against shrinkage.
In addition, local retailers should consider line by line shrinkage exercises in order to pin down the real extent to which shrinkage may be down to error versus how much of it is real loss. The impact of that loss on product profitability can then be assessed.
Furthermore retailers are being urged to consider radically different ways of managing stock including vendor managed inventory or 'pay as you scan'. This eliminates a lot of process and paperwork and transfers shrinkage risk back to the supplier.
Mr Purkess noted: "Local retailers will be well aware of where the 'hot' stores are within their store portfolio - those outlets which suffer from higher rates of shrinkage than normal.
"Sometimes this will be put down to a consequence of the surrounding social geography, other times it is attributed to the role of the management team, the rate of staff turnover or even store layout. Whatever the key reason may be though, retailers should now actively be considering how to minimise the financial costs of shrinkage.
"As long as the average shrinkage level remains around 1.5 per cent and with the current high street spend, there should be plenty of incentive for local retailers to make a real effort to reduce shrinkage and make valuable savings."