Responding to CBI's latest Distributive Trades Survey, 43 per cent of retailers said that sales in early April were higher than they were in the same period in 2009, while 30 per cent said they were lower. 17 per cent of retailers anticipate year-on-year growth in May.
The three-month moving average of sales volumes remained positive for the sixth month running and is projected to stay at the same level in May.
Only 11 per cent of retailers described sales as poor for the time of year, although they are expected to be more broadly in line with seasonal norms in May.
There was little change in the volume of orders placed on suppliers, with a rise of just one per cent and a balance of eight per cent of firms expecting orders to grow next month.
Six per cent of retailers said that stock levels were more than adequate to cover expected demand. In May, stocks are forecast to be broadly in line with predicted sales.
Andy Clarke, chairman of the CBI Distributive Trades Panel, and chief operating officer of Asda, said: "Spring has landed on the high street with some modest but welcome sales growth, and that improvement is expected to carry on into early May.
"Grocers and shoe shops fared reasonably well in April, and the lift in the housing market seems to have fed through to sales of white goods and furniture.
"However, the UK economy remains in a fragile place, and last week's higher unemployment figures will have unsettled many shoppers."