Retail sales staged a bigger-than-expected bounce-back last month as shoppers returned to the high street after a weather-hit January, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said sales volumes rose 1.7% month on month in February, smashing forecasts for sales to edge 0.5% higher.

It comes after a disappointing January, with the ONS revealing that sales fell even more than first thought, down by 2% against an initial estimate for a 1.5% decline.

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Even stripping out the often volatile changes from month to month, sales were 1.6% higher in the three months to the end of February compared with the previous three-month period - the highest since August last year.

Experts said the figures boosted hopes for another robust performance from the economy in the first quarter, easing fears that the extreme wet weather and flooding knocked the recovery off track.

Alan Clarke, director at Scotiabank, said the figures showed retail sales "are flying".