Retail Ireland is seeking talks with Michael McDowell, the Irish justice minister, to press for a "more focused" approach to rising crime in the sector.

The latest statistics show a 12% increase in thefts, burglaries and armed raids at retail premises.

In the Dublin suburb of Balbriggan last weekend, a Dunnes Stores shopworker was injured when a gang opened fire with a sawn-off shotgun during an unsuccessful attempt to grab money being loaded into a cash dispenser.

The trade body plans to press for the creation of a special Garda unit to help the sector. "We are particularly worried by the increase in gun crime," said director Torlach Denihan. "Most of these gangs are involved in drugs - and some are high on drugs when they carry out the raids, which makes them fearless and vicious."

The minister has already waded into the row by claiming that inadequate store security may be a factor. "Garda management are very concerned that a number of retail chains are not taking adequate steps to protect stock," he said. "Some large places with goods of substantial value, have no security guards."

But Denihan said: "Having security staff is important. But there is little they can do against gangs armed with shotguns."