Shoppers are not as loyal to loyalty card schemes as they are to low prices, exclusive research for The Grocer has revealed.

A survey of more than 2,000 adult shoppers showed that more than half (54%) of shoppers would prefer their supermarkets to invest in lower prices than loyalty card schemes, though 29% admitted they made good use of their cards and 27% that they enjoyed using them.

The findings, which come in the wake of Sainsbury denials that it is considering pulling out of the Nectar scheme, appear to reinforce Asda’s line that prices are more important to consumers than loyalty schemes.

Caroline North, senior research for HI Europe, which carried out the study, said the findings also suggested that some retailers were not adequately highlighting the benefits of such schemes.

“Maybe the benefits are not being sold to them,” she said. “There’s a marketing opportunity that is potentially not being exploited.”

However, despite apparent consumer qualms, the survey showed that penetration of loyalty schemes was high. Of the 84% of shoppers who had loyalty cards, 47% owned one to two, 24% owned three to four, while 6% claimed to own more than five.

The survey also showed that more shoppers had a Tesco Clubcard than any other loyalty card and that they used it more frequently.

A whopping 74% of loyalty card holders said they owned a Clubcard and one in three of them used their card more than once a week.

The Co-op’s Dividend card was not far behind, with 31% of Co-op shoppers claiming to use their card more than once a week. Just 26% of those with a Nectar card used it this frequently - despite the combined pulling power of Sainsbury, Debenhams, BP and Barclaycard.

The popularity of Tesco Clubcard showed that its marketing strategy was more successful, said North. “They’ve really caught the market,” she said.

However, she added, more could be done generally to encourage more frequent and wider use of loyalty cards.

For the full story, see this week's issue of The Grocer published on 19 February.