Two high-profile independent retailers are urging fellow shopkeepers to remain vigilant of staff theft after falling victim to significant theft themselves.

Budgens and Spar retailer Jonathan James, who is also vice chairman of the ACS, and Nisa-Today's retailer Kishor Patel have revealed they have both been hit by sophisticated theft by members of staff in the past year and wanted to alert all retailers to the problem, especially in the run-up to Christmas.

"Both Kishor and I have invested a lot of time in supporting the convenience sector and driving best practice forward for the benefit of the sector, so we could be embarrassed to make this admission," said James at a Partners for Growth Retailer Advisory Panel meeting last week. "But with theft on the increase, it is important to make it public to try to remove some of the taboo around employee theft."

James revealed that a member of staff had examined his company's till system to find loopholes and was able to take several thousands of pounds before being detected. James is recouping the income.

Patel was also hit. "We did an end-of-year reconciliation that highlighted discrepancies between credit card sales and cash sales, and it became clear that someone had been taking large amounts of money over a significant period," he said. "It is very important that all retailers ensure that they have systems in place to regularly check not only the tills balance, but also to reconcile cash, cheques, credit cards, and bankings." Patel has since recovered all the money.

He said retailers should encourage customers to check their receipts to ensure their change was correct and they hadn't been charged for items they hadn't bought, that staff were aware stock levels were being monitored, and to carry out a full stock-take every three months.

A Centre for Retail Research report has predicted staff theft could cost the retail sector £284m over the festive period. Theft by shoppers could cost the sector £980m.