Retail search volumes rose 14% in the fourth quarter of 2012 as the British Retail Consortium (BRC)–Google Online Retail Monitor splits out the growth rates of both tablet and smartphone retail searches for the first time.

Search volumes grew at their fastest rate for homeware from the start of October to December 31, with searches up  28% year on year. Footwear, DIY, furniture and health and beauty categories also showed strong growth.

For the first time the figures separated the growth rate of tablet searches and smartphones. The BRC said search volumes on tablet devices surpassed those on any other device, increasing 238% compared with 76% growth on smartphone devices.  

Fuelled by Sales, consumers raced online on Boxing Day with retail searches hitting a peak during the period. The iPad 4, Amazon Kindle and Christmas jumper were among the most popular retail searches during the quarter.

Total search volumes from international consumers jumped 25% in the same period compared to the year before.

Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: “This strong growth shows how online retail really came of age this Christmas. It’s playing an increasingly significant role at every stage of the customer journey, especially when researching items and comparing prices both at home and on the move.   

“Much of this growth is driven by the continuing surge in smartphone and tablet ownership. Tablet searches outpaced those on any other device and were particularly widespread on Boxing Day when many used them to get a head start on the sales.”