Retail pilferage or shoplifting is getting more expensive for retailers and consumers, according to a report issued by a New York-based marketing communications company.

Losses to retailers are building to some $9 billion annually, notes the report from the Howard Marlboro Group. Pilferage also costs every American consumer about $300 annually in the form of increased prices stores charge to cover their losses and the added expenses for pilferage prevention.According to the FBI's most recent Crime Index, shoplifting accounts for an estimated 15 percent of all larcenies. This figure has been growing steadily, up 35 percent over the past four years.

By virtue of the sheer traffic volume they generate, supermarkets are prime targets for shoplifters. Other major victims are music-video stores, department, mass-merchandising and variety stores.

Jewelry, handbags and accessories and women's dresses recorded the highest pilferage percentages in soft-goods categories.

Major factors fueling shoplifting include larger store formats, the growing self-service environment and efforts by retailers to stimulate impulse purchases by making it easier for consumers to get to merchandise.