Retail sales rose across the UK in March, boosted by last month's mild weather, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
Last month's mild weather boosted clothing sales
Driven by sales of clothing and DIY and gardening equipment, overall sales rose 3.9% on a like-for-like basis compared with March 2006, when sales fell 1.4%.
Yet the BRC said the latest figure may not be as strong as it first appears.
This was because last year's drop was largely due to Easter falling in April in 2006 rather than March, as in 2005.
The BRC, which compiles its retail sales monitor with accountancy firm KPMG, added that like-for-like sales for the January to March quarter were up 3.5%.
"While these results are obviously welcome, they must be set against the poor sales performance we reported a year ago," said BRC director general Kevin Hawkins.
The report added that food sales strengthened in March after dipping in February, while some retail sectors had to cut prices to tempt shoppers, notably home and kitchenware stores.
"Discounting and competition generally show no signs of easing off and many consumers are increasingly wary of making big purchases," added Mr Hawkins.
Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at Global Insight, said the ongoing growth in retail sales might make a rise in interest rates more likely in May.
The Bank of England kept rates on hold at 5.25% in April.