Sales during March were up 1.9% like-for-like for retailers last month compared with March 2012, with a total increase of 3.7%, according to a new report from the BRC and KPMG.
DIY and gardening were hit by the cold weather during the Easter weekend, said the report, which "made for unfavourable year-on-year comparisons, particularly for outdoor goods like barbecues and garden furniture."
Furniture and floorcoverings confirmed in March the revival initiated in February, and the category ranked second among all eight in the 'non-food' industry. However, added the report, growth remained reliant on advertising and promotional activity and was not experienced by all retailers.
The early Easter and promotional activity around Mothers' Day helped boost home accessories, with table decorations, kitchen accessories and cutlery all boosted. The category achieved its best performance since April.
House textiles, meanwhile climbed to the best performing category during March, with the unseasonal cold weather stimulating sales of duvets and the early Easter ensuring good demand for table cloths and small decorative items. "Those remain popular," the report stated, "to give the house a makeover without spending too much."
For retail in general, online sales were up 6.6% compared with March 2012, when they had risen by 13.9%.
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, especially for items which tend to sell well over the long weekend like food and homewares. But even if we strip out the data for the last week of March, performances are encouraging, considering the weather impact.
"Snow and the prolonged cold were not ideal but not a disaster. They brought mixed fortunes for different categories. Food was boosted by a continued appetite for hearty meals and 'wintry' fare such as roasts and chocolate. But demand was cool for new season clothing and footwear lines, resulting in a decline for both categories.
"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!"
KPMG's head of retail David McCorquodale, meanwhile, added: "The early Easter this year certainly boosted the March sales figures and food and drink sales in particular soared as people stocked up to enjoy the long weekend. There was also a welcome rise in house-related spending over the Easter break.
"Easter distortions aside, the three-month average figures paint a positive picture and show the highest like-for-like sales increases since December 2009. On the back of strong January and February results, this may be the beginning of a positive trend and will be welcomed by many retailers.
"With Easter falling early this year, the April sales comparatives will be negatively affected but it is hoped that the positive bounce of the first quarter of 2013 can continue to be felt across the country, buoyed by the opening of new shopping centres in cities such as Leeds."