Tablets were the driving force behind the growth in online retail searches in the third quarter, according to new research.

Searches on tablet devices accounted for 42% of total mobile searches in the third quarter, up from 40% in the second quarter of 2012, according to the BRC/Google Online Retail Monitor.

Total mobile search volumes soared by 102% in the third quarter compared with the same quarter a year earlier. Total retail search volumes were up 8%.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “Two in five of all mobile retail searches are now undertaken on tablets despite them being far outnumbered by smartphones. Consumers find it the most convenient way to browse retailers’ websites, whether they’re on the move or at home.”

Food and drink was the fastest growing sector for mobile searches, followed closely by homewares and DIY and gardening.

London has has the greatest share of searches with 36%, although the North of England, Midlands and Scotland all closed the gap on the capital in the third quarter.

Retail searches on mobile devices peaked on Sunday September 23 due to the release of the iPhone 5, although overall retail traffic fell during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, reflecting a similar trend on the high street.

The increase in searches suggests that online and mobile channels are set to be key battlegrounds in the Christmas trading wars, said Robertson.

Google retail director Peter Fitzgerald, said: “Alongside the high street, we saw a drop in overall retail traffic during the Olympic and Paralympic games. Mobile, however, continued to grow - now representing nearly a quarter of overall traffic.

“This reflects the growing trend that people are engaging with multiple screens at once - browsing their tablet and smartphone devices whilst watching TV.”