British retail spending saw its biggest annual fall in four years last month, hurt by the early date of Easter holidays, though the industry body which commissioned the research said underlying growth was robust.

The British Retail Consortium said on Tuesday that total retail sales dropped by 1.3 percent in value terms, following a 4.7 percent surge in March when Easter shopping lifted the BRC's figures, which are not seasonally adjusted.

Other surveys have pointed to strong consumer morale, with inflation at zero and wage growth showing signs of gradual improvement after years of effective stagnation.

April's fall was the biggest since March 2011, but the BRC said its measure of average sales growth between February and April pointed to the strongest underlying rise in spending since June last year.

"(That's) a clear indication that confidence among consumers is slowly improving," said Helen Dickinson, director-general at the BRC.

On a so-called like-for-like basis -- a measure which strips out changes in floor space and is favored by equity analysts -- retail spending was 2.4 percent down in April compared with a 3.2 percent annual rise in March. March 2011

A separate survey from released by credit card company Barclaycard on Tuesday pointed to confidence among British shoppers, as its measure of consumer spending rose 4.5 percent compared with a year earlier, the biggest increase since records began in October 2011.

"Weather and favorable economic conditions ... have culminated in a bumper month for consumer spending in April," said Chris Wood, managing director at Barclaycard.

A survey by the Confederation of British Industry at the end of last month showed retail sales growth eased in April, although shops' optimism about the coming month rose strongly.