Strong Easter trading spurred the retail sector to its strongest growth since April 2006, new figures show.

High street sales grew by 4.4% on a like-for-like basis in March, according to data from the British Retail Consortium.

Food sales for the past three months rose by 2.5% on a like-for-like basis, while non-food grew by 1.8% in the quarter.

Analysts said the results were boosted by the timing of Easter, with most holiday spending taking place in March rather than April, as in 2009.

“Without this uplift a gloomier picture would have emerged,” said Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG. “Concern about the future continues to weigh on consumers’ minds and the outlook for spending remains uncertain.

“Retailers are fighting hard to encourage shoppers and offer value, which has slowed the rise in shop prices over the month, but how long they will be able to sustain this, given the pressure on margins, is debatable.”

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