Hawkins, who has led the organisation for more than three years, will stand down at the end of the year, four months after his 60th birthday.
BRC chairman, Sir Geoff Mulcahy said: “Kevin has led the BRC through a period of accelerating change for the retail industry with remarkable success. We intend to appoint a similarly high calibre successor to this important job representing the retail industry in the UK and EU”.
Hawkins took over his current role in April 2004 having previously spent nine years as director of communications at Safeway Stores plc.
Consultants will be employed over the next few months to find his successor.
The BRC represents the whole range of retailers, from large multiples to independents, selling a wide selection of products through centre of town, out of town, rural and virtual stores.