Independents are unanimously shunning loyalty cards because they are too much hassle, according to the latest poll of The Grocer Top 50 retailers.

All the respondents said that they did not offer such cards and added that they never had. That's despite the fact that the vast majority - 82% - said that they either possessed the technology to make the best use of them or would soon have it.

One retailer said: “We have never gone down the loyalty card route. Customer perception is that they aren't particularly beneficial. People prefer to have savings in their pocket and the cost associated with running these schemes can be horrendous.”

Another said: “It's not just about the cost. It's the resources to manage and ensure they aren't abused.” Yet another added: “We just trade on price. Loyalty cards just add to the cost burden on independents.”

The feedback follows recent reports of support for local loyalty card programmes growing across the UK. A total of 31 independents have signed up to a project in Haslemere, Surrey, to stop shoppers deserting them in favour of out-of-town supermarkets ('Retailers unite to win local loyalties', The Grocer, 10 June, p12).

However, despite not opting for a loyalty card, most supported the idea of one. As one retailer said: “I think they would be a good idea in principle as a way of encouraging people to shop locally.”

In fact, 45.5% said they were losing sales to out-of-town supermarkets, showing the importance of encouraging customer loyalty. That said, 54.5% said that they felt shoppers were not deserting them in favour of a major out-of-town store.

Opinion was divided on whether it would be a good idea to participate in a scheme embracing other independent retailers. A total of 54.5% thought that if they launched a loyalty card, it should be specific to their own stores. “At the end of the day, other retailers are still competitors, even if they are fellow independents,” said one retailer.

However, others took a different view and one said: “If you're going to launch something, why not open it up, especially if it keeps people from visiting the supermarkets?”

The questions we asked:

1) Are you losing customers to out-of-town supermarkets? - Yes 45.5% No 54.5%

2) Have you ever been involved in a local loyalty card scheme? - Yes 0% No 100%

3) Is a loyalty card for independent retailers a good idea? - Yes 45.5% No 54.5%

4) Will you shortly have the technology to use loyalty card data? - Yes 82% No 18%