UK retail sales values advanced 1.9% on a like-for-like basis last month, however, fashion sales were hit by the cold snap.

Total sales were up 3.7% against a 3.6% rise in March 2012, according to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor. Adjusted for Shop Price Index inflation at 1.4% in March, total retail sales values were up 2.3%in real terms, however, growth is inflated by the timing of Easter, which fell in March this year but in April last year.

BRC director-general Helen Dickinson said: “This is a positive result, which rounds off a first quarter of cautious optimism for many retailers. Easter fell in March this year but April in 2012, which helps this year’s figures. But even if we strip out the data for the last week of March, performances are encouraging, considering the weather impact.

“2013 has got off to an encouraging start for the market as a whole. Retailers are now hoping for a boost in consumer confidence and the general mood to lift performance across all, not just some sectors, as we head into the second quarter. Getting a bit of sunshine, at long last, might help that along.”

All sectors experienced a like-for-like sales increase except for clothing and footwear, which were hindered by the unseasonably cold weather.

KPMG head of retail David McCorquodale said: “Clothing and footwear retailers had a dismal month as the cold weather froze sales, leaving summer skirts and sandals on the shelves. This year-on-year fall is made worse by the strong sales seen last March when a veritable heatwave drove sales of spring stock. Clothing and footwear retailers will be desperate for a change in weather in April.”

On a three-month average, food like-for-likes rose 2.5% and non-food edged up 1.9%.

Online sales were up 6.6% compared with March 2012, when they jumped 13.9%. Dickinson said: “The good overall picture wasn’t reflected online. Sales growth was the slowest since August, when the Olympics left many of us ‘otherwise engaged’ with little interest in shopping. Fundamentally, online retailing is still strong, but in March it outperformed overall retailing by the smallest margin we’ve recorded.”