Official figures showed sales volumes rebounding by 1.6 per cent from March, when they were down by 1.1 per cent owing to the freeze. This was well above the 0.7 per cent gain expected by economists.
Petrol sales led the way with 4.7 per cent growth compared with a 6.9 per cent decline in March, when road closures affected Travel.
Excluding fuel, sales were up by 1.3 per cent as shoppers also bought more clothes, household goods and food, with only department stores in decline.
Goods bought in the three months to April rose 0.1 per cent after a fall of 0.4 per cent in the first quarter.
The Office for National Statistics said the underlying position remained “subdued”.
Andrew Wishart, of Capital Economics, said conditions for a sustained recovery in consumer spending growth are in place, with healthy employment figures and real wages on the up.
Retail sales make up nearly a fifth of UK economic output.
But Dr Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY ITEM Club, warned: “The recent rise in oil prices could lead inflation to be higher than expected in the near term at least and could hold back the improvement in consumer purchasing power.”
He said the Bank of England would need to see “sustained conclusive evidence that the economy is bouncing back significantly” from growth of just 0.1 per cent in the first quarter before contemplating an interest rate hike. Meanwhile, Kingfisher’s same- store sales fell 4per cent in the first quarter.
B&Q was down by 9 per cent, although Screw-fix sales grew by 3.6 per cent.
CEO Veronique Laury said: “It was a challenging start to the year with exceptionally harsh weather across Europe and weak UK consumer demand.
“Market conditions continue to be mixed, with the UK uncertain.”
Source : EXPRESS