UK retail like-for-like sales increased 1.3% in March as warm weather boosted the performance of non-food, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) KMPG Retail Sales Monitor.

Total sales jumped 3.6% last month. Online sales of non-food items grew 13.9%.

The figures stand in contrast to last year’s figures, when like-for-likes were down 3.5%, year-on-year, due to the timing of Easter.

Food sales growth remained flat month-on-month as shoppers continued to search for value, despite Mothering Sunday and Easter egg promotions helping confectionary sales.

But BRC director general Stephen Robertson said retailers will have to wait until next month to see whether the sales pick up is genuine or a result of Easter falling earlier than last year.

He added: “Food sales growth continues to be largely underpinned by food inflation rather than by customers buying more.

“The overall retail environment is still difficult.

“Discounting remains a key tactic for retailers trying to encourage consumers to spend, particularly on big indoor items.

“People are still struggling to balance household budgets against expensive fuel and utilities. The warmth of March was a help but it will take more than a week of sunshine to transform retailers’ fortunes.”

Clothing sales were boosted in the month, seeing the best sales growth since April 2011, while footwear sales picked up “markedly”, posting its best performance since April 2007. Sandals and flat casual shoes were the most popular purchases in the category.

DIY and gardening sales also jumped up due to the unusually warm weather.

KPMG head of retail Helen Dickinson said: “It’s female shoppers who are tightening their purse strings most severely, focusing more on lower price point items to control the household budget. 

“This buying behaviour saw women’s clothing perform less strongly than men’s and childrenswear. Home accessories and textiles also had a poor month.”