By Chloe Rigby

Shoppers from the UK and abroad were more likely to go online to search for British department stores and clothing in the first quarter of 2017, new data suggests.

Overall, retail searches rose by 7% across all devices in the first quarter, and by 23% from smartphones, according to the BRC-Google Online Retail Monitor for the first quarter of the year.

Searches for clothing from overseas customers using their smartphones rose by 52% on the previous year, while searches for department stores rose by 50% over the same period.

Estonia demonstrated the strongest appetite for UK retailers from the EU, reporting an 84% increase on smartphone devices in the first quarter of 2017.

Within the UK, the South West saw the fastest growth in search volumes at 23% compared with the same quarter a year ago, whilst Northern Ireland and Wales both grew by 19%. In contrast London saw a decline of 8% over the period.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) [IRDX VBRC], said the figures pointed to the significance of retailers tailoring their online offering to traditional browsing and mobile platforms. “Smartphone-ready sites and quick loading times are essential to holding customers’ attention and converting searches into sales,” she said.

“A closer look at the different areas of the UK shows that online searches from nations and regions beyond the centre are growing at a faster rate than urban hubs such as London, which actually saw a fall….