LONDON: Consumers in the UK remain "impulsive" buyers but low prices and promotions also have a central role in purchase decisions, a study has revealed.

Insights provider Shoppercentric conducted 1,054 interviews with British adults, undertaking both qualitative and quantitative research. According to the study, the number of grocery categories in which respondents bought on impulse reached 8.6 in 2011, measured against 5.7 in 2008.

Totals here came in at 2.3 and 1.8 respectively for mid-cost categories such as fashion and entertainment. For high-value alternatives like electronics and furniture, participants generated an average score of 2.1 for 2011, beating 1.7 in 2008.

In all, 28% of the panel said they now obtained relatively expensive offerings on a whim, a lift of one percentage point during the same period.

The primary triggers for such behaviour was low price, registering 44% this year from 31% in 2008, while finding a "good bargain" logged 41% in 2011, and 35% in 2008.

However, the share of people buying a product because they "fancied it" slipped from 32% to 29%, and the importance of a "reminder" fell from 31% to 21%.

One of the few areas posting an improvement was if items were "new or different", hitting 23%, a two percentage-point increase.

Sweets, cake and chocolate maintained the leading positions among grocery goods in terms of unscheduled acquisitions, while nuts claimed fourth, rising two spots in three years.

Ready meals, by contrast, fell from fifth in the 2008 rankings to eleventh in the latest research round.

Beer also slid three places to twelfth, replaced by wine, outside the top ten in the last study.

Despite the overall trends demonstrated by the data, only 21% of Shoppercentric's cohort believed they were more impulsive today than previously, compared with 27% adopting this opinion in 2008.

Ratings here stood at 45% for 18-24 year olds, and 60% of this audience asserted shopping helped them "get out of the house", surpassing the 46% delivered across the entire sample.

Further variations emerged by gender, as 77% of women made unplanned purchases in supermarkets and similar stores, standing at 71% concerning men.

These figures attained 63% and 50% in turn for the mid-priced tier, and equalised at 28% looking to big-ticket lines.

Indeed, 39% of women supported the view this pastime was a "fun way of using up time in the day", growing on 29% in 2008.

Elsewhere, the proportion of people snapping up items online on the spare of the moment contracted from 50% to 43%.

Some 36% of men concurred it was "very easy to just buy something off the internet without really thinking about how much you are paying", falling to 33% of women.

Moreover, 46% of 16-24 year olds shared this standpoint, versus 34% incorporating every age group.

"Historically impulsive spending implies frivolous spending behaviour, but this is not necessarily the case today," said Danielle Pinnington, Shoppercentric's managing director.

"Now, impulse behaviour can be the mark of a smart and savvy shopper. It's about opportunism: seeing a product at a good price or spotting a bargain that genuinely saves money."

Data sourced from Shoppercentric; additional content by Warc staff