Food sales increased 2.4% on a like-for-like basis and 3.6% on a total basis over the past 12 weeks boosted by the Easter break, the BRC – KPMG Retail Sales Monitor April 2017 has revealed.

This growth over the 12 weeks to April was faster than the 12-month total average growth of 2% and the highest since February 2014.

Overall in April UK retail sales increased by 5.6% on a like-for-like basis from April 2016, when it decreased 0.9% from the preceding year.

On a total basis, sales rose 6.3% in April, against flat growth in April 2016. This pulls the 3-month average to 2.0%, which is above the 12-month average of 1.3%.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the BRC, said that the positive distortion from the timing of Easter was largely responsible for the growth. But she added that looking to the longer-term signs of a slowdown “the outlook isn’t as rosy”.

“Food categories continue to contribute the most weight to overall growth, although food inflation has a part to play in this. Meanwhile, consumers are being more cautious in their spending towards non-food products and focussing more on value priced lines,” she said.

Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive of IGD, said: “April’s food and grocery sales are best viewed in combination with March to iron out the changing date of Easter.

“Sales across this two month period were up by around 4% on last year, exceptional growth by all recent standards. Partly, this is due to the return of some food inflation but the underlying demand for groceries was also very robust.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail, KPMG said: “Food and drink sales soared significantly in April, suggesting that feasts remain at the heart of festive holidays. That said, in the ultra-competitive grocery sector, these growth figures should be taken with a hefty pinch of salt, with margins under significant pressure and profitability remaining a concern.”

Over the three-months to April, non-food retail sales in the UK increased 0.3% on a like-for-like basis and 0.7% on a total basis, which was in line with the 12-month Total average growth to 0.8%.

Online sales of non-food products grew 8.2% in the three-month period, while in-store sales declined 1.3% on a total basis and 1.8% on a like-for-like basis.