Like for like sales, which strip out stores open less than a year, were up 1.3% compared to last March and total sales increased 3.6%, driven by non-food items including clothing, footwear and outdoor leisure, according to the British Retail Consortium.
The monthly sales survey showed food sales growth remained flat compared with the previous month and shoppers remained cautious about big-ticket spending.
It also showed that women are keeping tighter control of budgets than men with sales of menswear overtaking women’s clothing.
The BRC warned, however, that the comparisons against last year are weak due to the timing of Easter and it remains to be seen whether the boost in march was additional spending, or spend brought forward.
Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, says: “The unusually warm weather in March brought some welcome sunshine into the lives of non-food retailers. The overall retail environment is still difficult.
“Discounting remains a key tactic for retailers trying to encourage consumers to spend, particularly on big indoor items. People are still struggling to balance household budgets against expensive fuel and utilities. The warmth of March was a help but it will take more than a week of sunshine to transform retailers’ fortunes.”