SHOPLIFTING gangs will cost retailers €51m over Christmas, it has been estimated.
And Isme, the body for small and medium businesses, has called for an increased garda presence in shopping centres over the festive period.
It comes after a spate of high-profile robberies during the last number of weeks.
In the most recent incident, a gang wielding sledgehammers smashed into Costello Jewellers in Dun Laoghaire and stole 34,800 worth of watches.
Owner Breasal O Caollai told the Herald that the loss was "insignificant" compared to the cost of repairs and disruption at the busiest time of the year.
Gardai said that the force worked with retailers to help prevent theft, but added that no special anti-shoplifting operation was in place for Christmas.
Isme claimed that retailers were twice as likely to be targeted over the festive season, and that half of all shops were shoplifted around Christmas time.
The association also estimated that the direct shoplifting cost to retailers this year would be in excess of €230m, of which €51m will occur during the Christmas period alone.
And it pointed out that the figure does not take into account the amount spent on security, which adds hundreds of millions to the cost.
"While this is a significant direct cost, there is also a huge indirect and often underestimated cost of shoplifting to business," Isme added.
"Retailers wish to serve customers but are spending far too much time attempting to prevent shoplifting."
Association chief executive Mark Fielding said that criminals saw Christmas as an opportunity to make money.
"We have seen an increase in organised retail crime gangs who move from shop to shop and town to town, stealing to order,'" he added.