Shoplifting is costing New Zealand retailers millions of dollars a year with lipsticks, shaving products, perfume and infant formula being the favourite products to snatch.

The latest Global Retail Theft Barometer, which surveys more than 1100 retailers around the world, shows New Zealand and Australian stores lost $2.89 billion worth of goods due to customer or employee theft or administrative error in the year to June 30.

Retailers Association chief executive John Albertson told Stuff theft cost New Zealand shopkeepers an estimated $600m to $800m a year.

The survey sponsor Checkpoints Systems said the cost of losses in both countries had decreased from 1.5 per cent of total sales in 2009 to 1.39 per cent in 2010 - it's the first fall since the survey began in 2007.

Managing director Mark Gentle credits the shoplifting decline to retailers' increase spending on loss prevention and security, which increased by 9.3 per cent to $38.5b globally.

"Lipsticks, shaving products and infant formula are repeatedly the highest theft lines in the region. Of all infant formula put on shelves, 2.07 per cent of stock will be stolen.

"In a recent trial with three major retailers to develop security systems for infant formula specifically, all retailers reported dramatically reduced shrink rates, as well as increased sales on these product lines," he said.

Checkpoints Systems said despite Australia and New Zealand having strong employment rate and economy, retail losses were considerably higher than the rest of the Asia Pacific region.

And Australasia also remained one of the highest employee theft regions in 2010 with more than $1.1b stolen by employees.

Over the past four years, employee theft has cost New Zealand and Australia over $4.7b.

Worldwide retailers lost $154.5b this year. India had the highest rate of loss with 2.72 per cent of retail sales, while Taiwan had the lowest with 0.87 per cent.

- NZPA