The coldest March in 50 years boosted sales for food and drink, while clothing and footwear retailers endured a "dismal" month, The British Retail Consortium (BRC) found.
It is thought the cold weather encouraged an appetite for hearty meals, with food sales up as families enjoyed themselves over Easter.
According to the BRC, sales grew by 1.9% in March on a like-for-like basis, weaker than February's 2.7% surge.
The organisation said: "2013 has got off to an encouraging start for the market as a whole. Retailers are now hoping for a boost in consumer confidence and the general mood to lift performance across all, not just some sectors, as we head into the second quarter."
Marks & Spencer Chief Executive Marc Bolland said the company is making "strong progress" in its bid to become an "international multi-channel retailer", despite reporting a drop in pre-tax profit during the first half of the year.
Instead, Mr Bolland highlighted the firm's performance in the second quarter, which was better than the previous quarter.
Marks & Spencer has revealed a slide in profits as its non-food sales continue to drop.
M&S announced a pre-tax profit of £297 million for the period ending 29 September, down from £307 million a year earlier.
The firm posted a 4.3 percent decline in non-food like-for-like sales in the first half after admitting it had lost market share in its core womenswear market.
Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said it looked like the modest sales revival seen in September was something of a "false dawn".
Clothing and footwear sales saw double-digit like-for-like growth in the first week of the month as customers bought autumn and winter collections, but faded as they were too nervous to fill their wardrobes with them.
David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said October sales figures had been like a "disappointing firework - full of promise, but eventually fizzing out with a whimper" and said winning a share of the Christmas wallet over the next two months would be just as competitive as last year.
Hopes for a continuing pre-Christmas sales revival were dashed today amid signs that consumers are still limiting spending to essential items.
In its worst figures outside of a seasonal period for 11 months, the British Retail Consortium said October's UK retail sales were 0.1% lower on a like-for-like basis than a year ago, ending the modest revival seen in September.
The figures heighten nerves in the sector ahead of the festive period, particularly after the collapse of electricals chain Comet.
Total sales, including new stores, were up 2% compared with 2.5% in July last year, while the three-month rolling average shows growth of like-for-like non-food sales outpacing food sales for the first time.
So-called big-ticket items such as furniture and household appliances continue to struggle to sell with growth being promotion-driven.
Online, mail-order and phone sales of non-food items show stronger growth, up 15.6% against growth of 9.6% last year.