When it comes to grocery shopping, location is key for UK shoppers, according to the latest research from Mintel.

Today, shoppers are twice as likely (at 50%) to opt for a store which is "the easiest to get to" than be swayed by the prices.  Just over a quarter (26%) of British look to purchase their groceries from a store which is cheapest to shop at, while only just over one in five (22%) opt for a store which offers the best range of produce.

"Although price is of some importance - location is crucial in the battle to win shoppers' trade. The high emphasis placed on the store being close to home shows that it is actually quite hard for grocers to break established shopping patterns," said Neil Mason, senior retailer analyst at Mintel.

"There is so much that can be done with the price, products and overall shopping experience, but it is significantly harder to change the location of a shop. Retailers need to be aware of the importance of accessibility, by considering a variety of store formats, such as local convenience stores, high street shops or out of town supermarkets, to make shopping increasingly convenient for consumers," he added.

Why discount discounters?

Today some 53% of adults shop at discounters, but just 2% use discounter grocery stores for their main shop, again showing that price alone is not the driving force behind choosing a grocery store.

"Although our research shows that discounters are becoming less popular for regular shopping trips, they are clearly becoming increasingly popular for the occasional purchase. There has been a move towards cherry picking, as the canny shopper simply heads to the discounter for a few selected good value favourites. Ironically it is the more affluent consumers who are most likely to opt for this way of shopping," said Mason.

Nonetheless, as shopping habits of UK consumers are heavily convenience-oriented, many simply cannot be bothered to make a separate trip to a discounter to get part of their weekly food shop. The temptation of exceptional offers on non-foods as well as very low prices on basic foodstuffs has not radically altered the purchasing patterns of the majority of UK consumers.

Do points really make prizes?

Once shoppers have located their most convenient store, Mintel's research shows that 65% of consumers claim to regularly use at least one loyalty card operated by a retailer. Back in 2002 it looked as if loyalty card schemes were about to fall out of fashion, but two years on in 2004 the three biggest schemes (Tesco Clubcard, Nectar and Boots Advantage card) alone had amassed some 11 million regular users.

Almost half (49%) of adults would prefer to "have lower prices than points or incentives" - this is up from just 34% in 1999. Not surprisingly, 40% of those participating in loyalty schemes take the rewards as a cash discount each time they shop. Around one in three (29%) only bother with loyalty cards for stores where they shop frequently and a mere 4% claim to have chosen their grocery store based on the loyalty scheme on offer.