LONDON: Only 4% of consumers in the UK have changed their preferred grocery retailer in the last year, although a majority are continuing to display very different purchase preferences than before the downturn, Mintel, the research firm, has found.

According to Mintel, 54% of British shoppers are now buying goods available on special offer or "multibuy" deals with a greater degree of frequency.

Over a third of adults are also acquiring a wider variety of low-cost or own-brand items in an effort to reduce their overall expenditure levels.

Furthermore, 21% of people have increased the number of visits they make to hard discounters during the crisis, while 28% are spending less on "treats and luxuries".

This trend also applies to "better off families", Mintel said, with 38% of affluent households trading down to low-cost goods, and 21% making more trips to chains like Aldi and Lidl.

In all, 73% of consumers now have at least one loyalty card, a record high, and just 28% of this group said these initiatives had no influence on where they chose to shop.

Some 7% aim to buy as many of the goods they need as possible at a store with this sort of programme, but just 2% argued they would not return to a retailer that scrapped such a scheme.

Richard Caines, senior retail analyst at Mintel, said "these are testing times and the recession provides the ultimate test of customer loyalty to those stores where shoppers spend the bulk of their money."

"Although discounters may be an increasingly acceptable element of many people's shopping repertoires, including better off families, the vast majority of shoppers are able to make savings by shopping more smartly at their existing supermarket."

Mintel also revealed that 14% of adults are spending more at discount fashion chains than was the case previously, while 20% are "shopping around" to find the best price on any major purchase.

Similarly, 14% are waiting for stores to run sales, while 21% now regularly compare prices on the web, with all of these trends being more pronounced among more affluent consumers.

Data sourced from Mintel; additional content by Warc staff