Retail sales surged year-on-year and month-on-month in March, official data showed.

Revenues, excluding fuel, rose 4.9% by value compared to March last year, the Office for National Statistics reported, and were up 1.5% month-on-month. Volumes, excluding fuel, rose 2.8% and 1.5% respectively.

Volumes at food shops fell 0.6% year-on-year but average price rises of 4.4% meant that the value of sales rose by 3.7%.

Fashion and footwear volumes advanced 3.7% compared to March 2011 and value increased by 6.9%. Average annual price inflation was 3.3%, the highest increase since last October.

Household goods stores’ volumes increased by 2.5% year-on-year and value was up 2% - the biggest rise since January 2011.

Internet sales climbed 15.2% compared with March 2011.

Richard Lowe, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays, said: “The tide may finally be turning for the high street, and with unemployment falling, there is certainly a feeling the stability of the past few months is here to stay. 

“The mild weather, the launch of the iPad 3, and let’s not forget the panic buying at the pumps, helped boost consumer spending. 

“We’re not out of the woods yet, however, inflation has yet to fall as expected, but the promise of this summer’s festivities could be just the tonic retailers need.”