The rise was driven by clothing and footwear, which had a particularly strong month because of the hot weather, and DIY, gardening and outdoor leisure retailers also fared well.
The like-for-like increase came despite very strong comparables from April 2006, when like-for-likes rose nearly 7 per cent because Easter fell in April in 2006, but March in 2005.
However, not all categories performed well. Homewares and, particularly, big-ticket items, suffered as customers focused on outdoor pursuits. The BRC said consumer confidence remained weak, which will also hit spending on large items for the home.
BRC director-general Kevin Hawkins welcomed the figures, but warned that sales growth fell later in the month. He added that Easter had distorted the figures and that May's numbers would give a better idea as to the state of the market.