Retail figures for March are down 1.7% on a like-for-like basis compared to 2013, which has been attributed to Easter falling in April not March causing a distortion in the data especially for the food and home categories.

According to figures from the British Retail Consortium and KPMG, there has been 12.8% like-for-like growth in online sales of non-food products, with clothing performing particularly well- a phenomenon being attributed to the mild weather.

“Putting Easter distortions aside, the overall picture looks encouraging. The long term trend shows that sales are moving in a positive direction, albeit it at a rate of 2.1 per cent which is just above inflation,” said David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG said.

Food sales have fallen in like-for-like value, which will be worsened by price wars from grocers. “Investors and analysts will be keeping a keen eye on the sector as they wait to see how these discounts will impact profits and performance, but the winner in this case will be the consumer,” McCorquodale added.

The sales figures measure changes in the actual value, inclusive of VAT, of retail sales to measure the value of spending.