The late Easter has helped deliver a long-awaited boost to High Street stores, according to the CBI.
38% of retailers reported better April trading
The month produced a slight increase in year-on-year sales, said the CBI's distributive trades survey, bringing a three-month decline to an end.
DIY retailers, who traditionally enjoy a strong Easter, saw their first growth since December 2004.
But the CBI warned the timing of Easter had flattered the figures - and that retailers still faced tough times.
The survey compares the number of stores reporting rising sales with those saying sales have fallen, and surprised forecasters with its positive balance.
Clothing retailers turned in an improved performance as the March cold snap came to an end, with chemists and bookshops also doing well.
But despite a more buoyant housing market, furniture and carpets also saw falling sales.
"April's survey could be interpreted as an early sign of a mild revival on the high street," said John Longworth of the CBI's retail panel.
"But let's not jump the gun. The economy as a whole is still working below capacity and recent improvements in the manufacturing sector have not been led by demand for consumer goods."
Global Insight's chief UK and European economist, Howard Archer said that Easter occurring in April this year as opposed to March in 2005 had impacted on the results.
A weakening labour market, rising utility bills, high petrol prices and higher debt levels were among factors handicapping consumers, prompting "serious concern" about the strength of spending, he said.