UK retail sales achieved their best total sales growth since April 2006 last month, as the timing of Easter helped to boost sales.

UK retail sales rose 4.4% on a like-for-like basis in March, while total sales increased 6.6%, aided by Easter falling in the March trading period.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) figures showed food like-for-likes increased 2.5% in the three months to the end of March, while total sales increased 4.3%.

In non-food like-for-likes edged up 1.8% in the three month period, while total sales rose 4.1%. The BRC said discretionary items were affected by “consumer caution in the face of economic and political uncertainty”.

Clothing and footwear slowed but homewares improved, helped by mid-season sales and promotions.

Non-food multichannel sales – including internet, mail-order and phone sales – jumped 15.9% in March.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “These are strong figures – the best total sales growth since April 2006, but they would have been only half as good without the distorting effect of Easter.    

“Food sales received a big boost from Easter falling a week earlier than last year, with the first half of the Bank Holiday weekend reflected in these March results. The overall figures were also helped by the comparison with last year’s very weak performance.

“In food and drink, this was the most intense March for eight years for promotional activity. Non-food is also a competitive battleground as retailers fight it out to entice customers being put off spending by pre-election uncertainty.”