Retail like-for-like sales rose by 1.3 per cent in March, according to the BDO Stoy Hayward High Street Sales Tracker.

It was only the third time in the past 12 months that sales entered positive territory, and the homewares category advanced for the first time since June 2008 with a 5.7 per cent like-for-like uplift.

BDO Stoy Hayward head of retail Rupert Eastell said dry March weather helped stores deliver the “surprisingly robust” performance.

He said: “It is clearly premature to classify these upbeat figures as a definite recovery trend. However, there are signs that demand is holding up and not contracting as sharply as we feared last month.”

Fashion was the only sector to suffer a fall in sales, which declined 1.1 per cent during the month. Mother’s Day helped non-fashion sales leap by 6.3 per cent as consumers bought gifts and health and beauty, and luxury retailers did well. The better weather provided relief for hard-pressed DIY retailers too.

Eastell said: “Discounting, promotions and the good weather were clearly the tonic retailers needed to boost sales into positive territory during March.

“Another good month of sales during April will be essential to the future of UK retailers, particularly as quarter day will still be fresh in many people’s minds.”