UK retail sales grew at their fastest rate in more than three years in February, as the drier weather brought shoppers back to the High Street.
Sales values were up 2.7% on a like-for-like basis from February 2012, when they were down 0.3% on the preceding year. On a total basis, sales were up 4.4%, against a 2.3% rise in February 2012.
Excluding distortions caused by the timing of Easter in previous years, total sales grew at the fastest rate since February 2010 (4.5%). Like-for-like sales growth was the fastest since December 2009.
The latest data will bring a sigh of relief following recent reports suggesting that the UK might be on the brink of a triple-dip recession.
Helen Dickinson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said: "After the disappointing figures that brought 2012 to a close, it's reassuring that the sales momentum established during an encouraging January has built not faded. There are certainly highly-welcome signs here of gradual improvement and customers feeling a bit more positive. February saw growth across all parts of retailing, with big-ticket goods and items for the home recovering particularly well, possibly reflecting better conditions in the housing market.
"But it's too soon to assume this represents the permanent turnaround we need."
"This month's Budget gives the Government a great opportunity to act to secure real and lasting revival from what could be no more than a short-lived lift. Retail is central to generating the growth and jobs so critical to the UK's economic recovery but weak consumer confidence is the real and present obstacle."
"Consumers need a Budget that leaves them with more money in their pockets and the confidence to spend it and retailers with the means to invest. I hope the Chancellor seizes the moment."