The monthly monitor, published today by the British Retail Consortium, showed the furniture and flooring category enjoyed particularly strong trading in April. There was also strong demand last month for children's clothing.
However, food retailers remained under pressure, as consumers continued to spend cautiously in this category.
According to the BRC, the value of UK retail sales in March had been down 0.3 per cent on a year earlier.
BRC director general Helen Dickinson cited the distortion from the later Easter, noting the holiday had fallen in March in 2013.
But she added: "What we can say for certain is that customers responded well to great deals and good ranges in children's clothes, DIY products and furniture, although volumes of food sales did not rise significantly."
David McCorquodale, head of accountancy firm and BRC survey sponsor KPMG's UK retail sector practice, said: "After splashing out at Easter shoppers may be more restrained in the forthcoming months as they keep a keen eye on cash.
" However, if we have fine weather and the good economic news keeps coming, this should give retailers the momentum they need to drive sales of summer stock."