The quarterly Confederation of British Industry (CBI) report showed that 46 per cent of retailers said business was up in February 2010 compared with the same period last year.
Sales of clothes and household goods were particularly strong.
Richard Lowe, Head of Retail and Wholesale at Barclays said: "February has defied expectations with a return to positive growth in the retail sector.
"Businesses will be enthused by this news after the New Year began with a reining in of consumer spending which commentators had seen as a possible sign of a double-dip recession on the horizon.”
But Andy Clarke, chairman of the CBI's distributive trades panel and chief operating officer at Asda urged caution.
He said: "Retailers don't think February's growth spurt will be matched in March, but the sector can take some reassurance that job losses are easing off and capital expenditure plans are stabilising."