Poor stock management causing consumers to leave shops empty handed is costing retailers £1bn a month in lost sales, according to a report.
Venda, the ecommerce specialist, commissioned a YouGov poll of 2,043 Britons and found that 38% had left stores without the item they wanted because it was not in stock.
When grocery items are excluded, 2% of respondents said they had left a store five times in a month without making the purchase they had intended. The report concludes that on average there is a £43 loss in potential sales for every UK adult a month because of stock issues.
It comes at a time when retailers have suffered badly amid the economic downturn, with consumers' incomes in sharp decline, and many well-known high street brands have gone under.
"In a climate of tough trading, retailers need to go back to basics and re-evaluate core aspects of their businesses operations," said Eric Abensur, group chief exeuctive of Venda.
"Although promotional activities and flash sales have helped retailers boost bottom lines in recent months, focusing on these strategies should be in line with optimising stock management and order fulfilment.
"Stock management systems that only marginally work are costing retailers millions of pounds worth of sales which, if captured, could be considered as the saving grace of the high-street."
Abensur added that embracing new technologies, such as WiFi in stores and smartphone scanning, could negate in-store stocking problems by offering customers a chance to complete a sale through the web.
UK Retail Sales
Official figures show UK retail sales volumes unexpectedly fell by 0.9% on the month in August, against a 1.1% monthly rise in July.
"Recent positive economic news indicates the recovery is underway. Nevertheless, there is a continued concern about the imbalance between wage growth and inflation," said Ian Geddes, UK head of retail at Deloitte.
"As average wage increases remain below inflation, there is a substantial proportion of the population that are yet to feel their financial situation improve.
"Although economic conditions are easing, the recovery is not uniform across the UK. This will resonate with mass market retailers who continue to see many customers struggling to increase spending."