Sales rose 0.9% year-on-year in October, as non-fashion sales jumped 5.2%, boosted by purchases of outdoor gear like wellies and waterproofs, consultancy BDO found.
At the same time online and catalogue orders shot up by over 40% - the highest level of growth for over a year.
BDO's national head of retail Don Williams said retailers are "quietly optimistic" about the festive period.
"We've learned to live with austerity for five years, but consumers have shown they will not sacrifice Christmas," he said.
"Now indicators are suggesting the economy will improve in 2013, this will hopefully feed into consumer confidence over the next two months."
It comes as new research showed that more than one in 10 people who took on debts to fund last year's Christmas are still paying off their loans.
The Money Advice Service, an independent body set up by Government, said most people expect to spend £592 this December - an increase of £46 on last year.
This would take the total Christmas spend across the UK to £29bn in 2012.
And almost half of those questioned took out a loan or went into more debt to help fund last year's festive season - and 13% said they are still paying the money off.
The Money Advice Service has launched a tool on its website to help people cope with the cost of festive celebrations.
"At the end of a long year when many have been feeling squeezed financially for some time, it can be daunting to be faced with a very expensive month," director Karen Broughton said.
"Typically, with just two monthly pay days before Christmas, there are lots simple things you can do to make your money go further and take the pressure off your budget."
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