By Max Clarke

Searches for retail grew 29% in the first quarter of 2011, reflecting both a renewed growth in the retail sector and the increasing popularity of online retail.

Searches on mobile devices jumped 181% over the same period, according to the results of a joint Google/ British Retail Consortium online retail monitor.

"Online is the fastest growing part of retailing,” commented Stephen Robertson, Director General, British Retail Consortium.

“We need to better understand that development and what's driving it. Despite any short-term effects from weakening consumer confidence, what stands out here is the fundamental strength of the growth of online retailing. A 29 per cent increase in retail searches in a year is a huge increase in potential shoppers. The star performer is mobile. A three fold increase reveals customers are taking to smartphone and tablet shopping very rapidly. The rise of mobile use to one in ten searches sends a valuable message to any forward-thinking retailer that doesn't yet have an m-commerce platform. The figures show, British retailers are very good at selling online and winning business from all parts of the world. What we need from politicians, UK and European, is a regulatory environment that helps that develop further."

Other indicators from the monitor include:

Mobile searches accounted for 11% of total retail searches in the first quarter of 2011.

Retail searches grew fastest for multi-channel retailers (usually those using stores and the internet). They saw a rise of 42% year-on-year, compared with 19% for pure online retailers.

The number of overseas consumers searching for UK retailers grew by 27% in the first quarter of 2011 compared with the same quarter a year earlier.

The number of UK consumers searching for overseas retailers grew by 21% in the first quarter of 2011 compared with the same period a year earlier.

Central and Greater London were the source of 46% of total retail searches.

Peter Fitzgerald, Retail Director, Google, said:

"The launch of the Online Retail Monitor (ORM) marks a big step in understanding online consumer behaviour across retail categories. The report provides key insights into some important online trends, including the most popular products consumers are searching for and the varied rates at which multi-channel and pureplay retailers are growing online. We hope that it will provide retailers with an up to date snapshot of the ever-changing digital retail marketplace."