Mobiles searches accounted for one in five online retail searches in the fourth quarter, with the number of searches on smartphones and ipads 169% up on last year.

In the period between October and December 2011, total search volumes jumped 24%, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Google Online Retail Monitor.

Pre-christmas, total online searches peaked on Monday November 30, while mobile searches reached their high on December 4.

The most growth in total online searches was for food and drink, rising by 29%, while homewares increased the most on mobile devices, up by 189%.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “Hard-pressed consumers are searching more for bargains and using technology to seek out the best offers.

“The significant growth in searches from countries such as Brazil and Russia shows the opportunities presented [to retailers] by emerging economies.”

The number of overseas shoppers visiting UK-based retailers rose 45% with the highest interest from emerging markets coming from Russia, which was up 73%. Of developing economies, Pakistan came top with growth rocketing 1,245%.