Shoppers file past as police officers stand around a tent erected on the ground floor of Peter Jones department store after a man fell from the escalator in central London on Dec. 30, 2014. Reuters/Stefan Wermuth

(Reuters) - British retail spending rose at its fastest annual rate in almost a year last month, boosted by Easter falling a month earlier than in 2014, an industry body said on Tuesday.

The British Retail Consortium said the value of total retail sales in March was 4.7 percent up on a year earlier, the biggest year-on-year rise since April 2014, and much stronger than the 1.7 percent growth recorded in February.

Other surveys have also reported rising consumer morale, as inflation has fallen to a record low and wages are starting to pick up after years of stagnation. But the fact that Easter fell in March rather than April this year also lifted the BRC figures, which are not seasonally adjusted.

"An early Easter and better economic news helped lift retail sales out of the doldrums," said David McCorquodale, a partner at accountants KPMG, which sponsors the survey.

Helen Dickinson, the BRC's director general, said the sector was seeing "slow but steady growth" and added that April's sales growth was likely to be weaker due to Easter timings effects.

Retail spending in the first three months of 2015 was 2.8 percent higher than a year earlier, compared with a 1.5 percent rise in the last three months of 2014.

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 3.2 percent up in March compared with a 0.2 percent annual rise in February.

The rise in consumer spending comes at the same time as prices measured in-store by the BRC are falling at their fastest rate since 2006.

The broader official measure of British consumer price inflation in March -- due out at 0830 GMT -- is forecast to show prices flat on the year for a second month in a row, the lowest inflation has been since records began in 1989.