UK retail spending was up at its fastest annual rate in almost a year last month, due to Easter falling a month earlier than in 2014, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
According to the BRC, the value of total retail sales in March was 4.7 per cent up on a year earlier, the biggest increase year-on-year since April 2014, and much stronger than the 1.7-per cent growth recorded in February.
Other surveys had also indicated upbeat consumer sentiment, with inflation falling to a record low and wages starting to pick up after years of stagnation.
However, the fact that Easter fell in March rather than April this year also lifted the BRC figures, which were not seasonally adjusted.
According David McCorquodale, a partner at accountants KPMG, which sponsored the survey, an early Easter, and better economic news helped lift retail sales out of the doldrums.
According to Helen Dickinson, the BRC's director general, the sector was seeing "slow but steady growth." She added that April's sales growth was likely to be weaker due to Easter timings effects.
Retail spending in the first three months of 2015 stood 2.8 per cent higher than a year earlier, as against a 1.5 per cent increase in the last three months of 2014.
The BRC's indicator for online sales of non-food products in the UK increased 12.3 per cent in March versus a year earlier, when it had risen by 12.8 per cent over the earlier year.
According to the data March's growth was the best since October 2014 and came in line with the 12-month average of 12.1 per cent.
In March 2015, online sales represented 17.6 per cent of total non-food sales, against 16.9 per cent in March 2014.
According to analysts at stockbroker Shore Capital, whilst cash values in March were ahead by 4.7 per cent, volumes were considerably stronger due to the impact of deflation, which the separate BRC-Nielsen monthly analysis stated was most recently running at 2.1 per cent in aggregate, the deepest level ever recorded by the survey.