This was up 12% from the previous year (£1.7bn) and was made up of £900m direct cost from retail crime, and £1bn spent in efforts to prevent crime.
The direct costs of crime included a £700m loss arising from customer theft, a 31% rise on the previous year. The BRC said the total is equivalent to approximately 20% of the estimated profits of the entire retail industry.
The survey revealed that 115 retail employees were attacked at work every day. The use of knives by assailants was pointed out as an issue of significant concern.
Approximately 70% of respondents described the police response to retail crime as poor or very poor. And while opinions showed the police response was generally better for violent incidents, as compared to customer theft or fraud, only 20% of respondents considered the response good or excellent.
Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Violence against employees remains one of the most pressing issues retailers face, yet once again we have seen an increase in the overall number of incidents. Such crimes harm not just hardworking employees, but also on their families and communities. No one should go to work fearing threats and abuse.
“The spiralling cost of retail crime – both in losses and the cost of prevention – are a huge burden to a retail sector that is already weighed down by the twin challenges of skyrocketing business costs and Brexit uncertainty.
She added: “We hope this report will act as a catalyst for police and crime commissioners around the country to take action. Retail crime should be explicitly addressed by police and crime plans. Furthermore, parliament must play its part in stemming this tide of crime by creating a specific criminal offence to protect retail employees from assault at work, as has been done for emergency workers.”
Retailers are also spending 17% more on cyber-security than last year (£162m), and nearly 80% of the retailers surveyed have seen an increase in the number of cyber attacks.