April UK retail sales values rise 4.6 per cent on a like-for-like basis and rose 6.3 per cent on a total basis, from April 2008, when sales were weak in cold wet weather after Easter fell in March.
The results from the British Retail Consortium also showed a rise in outdoor leisure and toys. Crafts, sewing and haberdashery sold well and toys in general were popular over the school holidays, with interest in traditional games.
The BRC however warned retailers to be cautious over the positive results. Stephen Robertson, director general, said: “The best sales growth for three years is good news but let's be cautious.
“A sunny Easter that fell in April this year is the key reason why overall sales are up compared with last year when Easter was in March and miserable.
"Following a tough winter, there's some pent up demand but there's no reason to think customers suddenly feel flush or eager to spend. With unemployment set to grow through the rest of the year, mounting jobs worries will hold back spending for some time.
“It would be great if the historically weak performance of the last twelve months was behind us but we shouldn't celebrate yet."
Helen Dickinson, head of retail, KPMG, agreed: "Although, on the face it, the results for April show a healthy year-on-year uplift, it would be dangerous to see the figures as a sure sign that consumer confidence has returned just yet.
“What they do show is that consumers are remaining resilient to the prospects presented by a gloomy economic outlook and, for the moment at least, are not making a step change in reducing their spending."
Non-food non-store sales (internet, mail-order and phone sales) in April were 12.5 per cent higher than a year ago, thus following the month’s uplift in store sales.
Sharon Hardiman, head of Non-Store Retailing, BRC, said: "Non-store grew faster than shop sales but the gap in growth rates narrowed significantly as store sales did better than in recent months.
"Online and catalogue sales were boosted by extra customer interest in many of the same things doing well in stores - DIY, outdoor furniture and toys."