COLOGNE: A majority of consumers in Germany are interested in the social and environmental credentials of brands, but these attitudes are not reflected in their actual purchase habits.

The Institut für Handelsforschung, the consultancy, surveyed 750 adults in the country to gain an insight into whether perceptions translate into actions.

Overall, 54.5% of the panel stated that issues such as a company's carbon footprint, approach to corporate social responsibility and treatment of employees carried significant weight.

A further 23.9% agreed these matters were quite important, compared with 21.7% of participants who expressed no real concern about this area.

Despite this, Boris Hedde, the managing director of the IFH, suggested shoppers typically selected low-cost items in stores.

"The consumer wants to have a clear conscience when buying, but in effect he generally opts for cheaper prices," he argued, adding that beliefs and behaviour are currently "worlds apart".

In demonstration of this, expenditure in the apparel and footwear sector has fallen by 5.3% a year from 2000 to the present, as customers turned to low-cost chains which often boast less on an ethical focus.

As such, discount retailers in this category have doubled their share since 2002, and now account for 12% of sales.

"The trend is clear in Germany. The market is polarised into a 'quality' and a 'price' market," said Hedde.

"Many consumers on low incomes have little choice when it comes to buying from discounters. But the success of the discount format has accelerated over several years, and is not only attributable to the target group of low income shoppers."

Data sourced from Institut für Handelsforschung; additional content by Warc staff