Sales were up 0.9% in January, compared to the previous month, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) against a 0.3% decline expected by most analysts.
The value of retail sales increased 4.4% year-on-year, while volume sales were up 2%.
The positive figures fuel optimism that the economy is turning a corner. Separate research from the IGD today claims that British consumers are starting to feel more positive about their financial situation and “believe that the worst is behind them”.
Meanwhile, the latest figures from the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index reveal 16% year-on-year growth as shoppers spent £6bn online during January.
Figures were boosted by the travel sector which reported a 205% increase in sales as consumers booked summer holidays.