The Confederation of British Industry, which published the survey yesterday, noted sales in recent weeks had beaten expectations. However, the CBI's distributive trades survey also signalled a slight decline in employment in the retail sector and an expectation that this would continue.
Subtracting the proportion of retailers reporting a year-on-year decline in sales volumes from that experiencing a rise, a net 37% enjoyed an increase.
The survey was conducted between January 23 and February 12.
It signals a sharp acceleration in year-on-year growth in retail sales volumes. In the previous monthly survey from the CBI, a balance of 14% had reported a year-on-year increase in sales.
The latest survey points to particularly strong year-on-year growth in sales by grocers, and furniture and carpet retailers. Clothing retailers also reported a solid year-on-year rise in sales.
Barry Williams, chairman of the CBI distributive trades survey panel, said: "The high streets have kicked on once again this month, with growth the strongest since the summer of 2012. There is growth across many sectors, including grocers and clothing outlets. Although we are by no means seeing a universally confident shopper, the positive indicators have perhaps given some people the urge to spend."
He believed sales had been "remarkably resilient" in the face of disruption from "exceptional weather" across the UK.