UK retail sales volumes continued to rebound in March, up 5.4%, with garden centres, butchers and bakers proving popular, according to new data.
The increase was up on the previous month, and in addition sales in March were 1.6% higher than February last year before lockdowns came in, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The figures cover the period ahead of high street shops being allowed to reopen in England on April 12.
In demand in March were bakers and butchers, as shoppers flocked to buy goods for Easter in a month where restaurants were shut.
Darren Morgan, ONS director of economic statistics, added: “The approaching spring enticed people into garden centres, which had a good month, while clothing sales sprung back to life as people looked to update their wardrobe in anticipation of lockdown easing.”
Fuel sales also recorded a strong month as the easing of movement restrictions meant people could again travel further afield, Morgan said.
From late March some lockdown rules eased, with outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households allowed.
The ONS said that despite strong March figures, retail sales for the quarter have been subdued overall.
In the three months to March, retail sales volume fell by 5.8% when compared with the prior quarter, with strong declines in both clothing stores and other non-food stores as a result of the tighter lockdown restrictions in place.
Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said: “Retailers will be hoping that these positive signs translate into a sustained return to the physical stores as they reopen across the UK over the course of April. The real test of whether pent-up demand can be turned into actual sales will come with next month’s figures.”