The survey of 122 firms also showed that orders fell in the year to April but they are predicted to rise strongly next month – with expectations highest since May 2014.
Hardware and DIY retailers reported the strongest sales growth (+61 per cent) since November 2013, and other sub-sectors also demonstrated brisk growth, such as chemists (+64 per cent) and clothing (+58 per cent).
Most retail sub-sectors reported rising sales volumes, although overall growth was held back by a fall in the grocers’ sector. Footwear & leather and non-specialised stores also reported lower sales volumes. In contrast, clothing, furniture & carpets, other normal goods and chemists all reported solid sales growth. The rise in internet sales exceeded expectations in the year to April, and strong growth looks set to continue in May.
Meanwhile, growth in wholesale sales volumes accelerated in the year to April, exceeding expectations, but it is expected to slow in May. Motoring sales continued to grow, albeit at a more modest rate than the previous month.
CBI DTS chairmand and Asda chief cusotmer officer Barry Williams said: "With the mixed news we’ve been seeing from the high street recently it’s perhaps not surprising that retailers have reported varied fortunes this month.
"A healthier picture in furnishing and DIY sectors - driven by the desire by customers to spruce up their homes – contrasts with a fall in sales at shoe shops, grocers and department stores.
"With shopping habits changing so dramatically in the last few years underlying consumer confidence is hard to read, but both retailers and wholesalers are optimistic there will be a spring in their customers’ steps, and therefore their sales, in the near future."
Some 30 per cent of respondents said volumes were up on a year ago, and 18% said they were down, giving a balance of +12 per cent, a slight slowing in sales growth on the previous month (+18 per cent) and below expectations (+21 per cent).