The increase was driven by growth of food sales with non-food items still showing a drop in the Scottish Retail Consortium's Retail Sales Monitor.
However, retailers will be pleased the monthly report is back in positive territory following drops in total sales for July and August.
The high street remains fragile, though, and by adjusting for inflation total sales in September were actually flat. Stripping out the impact of new stores and expansions, like-for- like sales in September dropped 0.8%.
Fiona Moriarty, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: "These figures offer faint glimmers of hope after a disappointing summer for sales and two consecutive months of year-on-year falls.
"The situation in Scotland mirrors a slightly improving trend in the UK as a whole."
Food was up 3.4% year-on-year in September, following a 1.5% rise last year, as consumers begin to stock up ahead of Christmas.
In real terms, taking inflation into account, there was a 0.3% increase, which is the best food performance since April 2011.
Non-food declined 1.2% in September, with clothing and footwear the best performing segment.
Following a "dire" August, clothing sales picked up, with both children's and men's lines outperforming women's. In footwear styles suited to colder weather, such as brogues for men and boots, were among the best sellers.
In furniture and flooring big ticket items plus carpets and other floor coverings remained weak but fitted kitchens showed a better performance when compared to depressed levels of the previous September.
The home accessories, textiles and DIY sector was boosted by bed linen sales for the new academic year, particularly in and around Edinburgh. There was also some indication Christmas sales were starting earlier than usual.
Ms Moriarty added: "Times remain tough for customers, so any modest revival in sales should be seen within a wider context of continual pressures on household incomes. Retailers will be hoping that this very tentative boost builds as we head towards the crucial Christmas season, rather than fading amid new worries about rising household bills."
David McCorquodale, head of retail in Scotland at KPMG, said: "With total sales up by 1%, September's figures appear to bring much needed relief for Scottish retailers.
"However, closer examination shows the rise was mainly in the food sector, where sales soared by 3.4% as budget-conscious consumers tried to spread the cost of Christmas by stocking up on confectionery and other items."
With the main UK rents paid for the last quarter before Christmas and most seasonal orders now made, the bets for the rest of the year have been placed.
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