Retailers enjoyed their best sales growth in three years during April, when like-for-like sales surged 4.6 per cent and total turnover advanced 6.3 per cent.

The fashion sector put in its strongest performance since late 2006, furniture and floorcoverings delivered the first year-on-year sales growth since January 2008 and DIY managed “strong gains”.

Electricals retailers’ performance was “subdued”, however and department stores’ trading was mixed, according to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor. The total spent on food rose less than food inflation, indicating the amount sold fell.

The timing of Easter and good weather played a key role in boosting sales, British Retail Consortium director-general Stephen Robertson cautioned.

He feared the trading outlook remained uncertain and said: “Following a tough winter there’s some pent up demand, but there’s no reason to think customers suddenly feel flush or eager to spend.

“With unemployment set to grow through the rest of the year, mounting jobs worries will hold back spending for some time. It would be great if the historically weak performance of the last 12 months was behind us but we shouldn’t celebrate yet.”