UK retail sales were up 1.9% in March on a like-for-like basis, while total sales rose 3.6% year-on-year, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG.

Adjusted for Shop Price Index inflation at 1.4% in March, total retail sales values grew 2.3% in real terms.

An early Easter helped lift the month’s sales, said Helen Dickinson, BRC director general, who added that even without the bank holiday impact, retail performance was “encouraging”.

Snow and the prolonged cold were not ideal but not a disaster. They brought mixed fortunes for different categories. Food was boosted by a continued appetite for hearty meals and ‘wintry’ fare such as roasts and chocolate. But demand was cool for new season clothing and footwear lines, resulting in a decline for both categories,” she said.

“Easter distortions aside, the three-month average figures paint a positive picture and show the highest like-for-like sales increases since December 2009,” said David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG.

Online sales rose 6.6%, compared with 13.9% the year before.

“The slowdown in online sales is surprising, especially given recent reports that the unseasonably cold weather had boosted ecommerce,” said Jon Copestake, retail analyst at The Economist Intelligence Unit.

Meanwhile, retail footfall levels across the UK rose by 3.8% in March over February, but were 6% down on last March, the latest Retail Traffic Index shows. Snowy weather in the middle of the month resulted in 12.8% fewer shopping trips, the research by Ipsos Retail Performance indicated.

“Weather conditions could not have been more different to last year, when March was the sunniest on record since 1929 and the warmest since 1997,”said Dr Tim Denison, director of Retail Intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance.

The first quarter of 2013 saw a 5.3% fall in retail footfall year-on-year, the study found.