Like for like retail sales were up by 1.3 per cent in March, according to the latest edition of the BDO Stoy Hayward High Street Sales Tracker.
Homeware sales increased for the first time since June 2008, with like for like sales up by 5.7 per cent.
"After a dismal February and very difficult trading conditions on the High Street, retailers reported surprisingly robust results in March," said Rupert Eastell, head of retail at BDO Stoy Hayward. "Underlying demand was much higher than we expected and sales appear to have been bolstered by the driest March weather for six years.
"It is clearly premature to classify these upbeat figures as a definite recovery trend; however, there are signs that demand is holding up and not contracting as sharply as we feared last month."
Fashion sales were the only sector to report a downward trend during March. While the fine weather helped to drive demand for seasonal spring fashion and footwear, sales of formalwear, accessories and lingerie were weaker.
Non-fashion retailers had a good month thanks in part to Mother's Day. Gifting, health and beauty and luxury stores all benefited from strong sales, while general household demand was also up. In contrast, demand for leisure goods remained subdued, while outdoor leisure specialists also found it more difficult.
Homeware stores reported an excellent month, with sales returning to positive territory for the first time since June last year.
"Discounting, promotions and good weather were clearly the tonic retailers needed to boost sales into positive territory during March," Eastell continued. "Another good month of sales during April will be essential to the future of UK retailers - particularly as Quarter Day will still be fresh in many people's minds."