Retail sales exceeded growth expectations in the year to February, increasing at their fastest rate since June 2012, despite disruption from the floods in the period.

The CBI Distributive Trades Survey has recorded sales growth for nine consecutive months, although sales were broadly in line for the time of year. But retail sales growth over the next month is expected to ease but “should remain robust nonetheless”.

Retailers said they envisage their business situation improving over the next quarter, according to the CBI.

Food retailers recorded “strong” sales volumes in the period along with clothing and furniture and carpet retailers.

Retailers’ investment intentions for the year ahead were the strongest since November 2010.

Meanwhile, orders increased in line with expectations, and the CBI said firms “anticipate they will strengthen again in the next month”.

Online retail sales growth was “robust” in the period but this is expected to ease next month.

Employment fell on a year ago for the first time in 12 months with another “small” drop expected next month.

CBI Distributive Trades Survey Panel chair and Asda chief merchandising officer for food Barry Williams said: “The high streets have kicked on once again this month, with growth the strongest since the summer of 2012.

“Although we are by no means seeing a universally confident shopper, the positive indicators have perhaps given some people the urge to spend.

“Overall sales have been remarkably resilient in the face of disruption from the exceptional weather across the UK, which has badly affected many families and businesses.”

Barclays head of retail and wholesale Richard Lowe said: “Consumer confidence is picking up and the retail sector is benefiting from the improving outlook, as today’s very positive figures show.

“As the weather becomes milder over the next couple of months and we move into spring, retailers will be hoping consumers will continue to hit the high street and online to make fresh purchases for their homes and wardrobes.”