Department stores had the toughest month so far this year in April with sales down 8% on the same time last year according to Barclaycard.
Overall consumer spend rose by 3.6% - although value was down 1.4%.
Online sales soared 11.7%, and figures suggested the high street had also seen a good month as the weather improved.
But below the top line, performance of clothing told a different story.
Department stores were worst hit, but individual categories within fashion also struggled throughout the month as men’s clothing fell 5.5% and women’s by 3.5%.
The figures are drawn from Barclaycard credit and debit cards.
Chief executive of Barclaycard Valerie Soranno Keating said: “Although economic data is generally mixed, this is the first time since 2011 that we’ve seen growth above 2% for three consecutive months, which may suggest a more sustained improvement in sentiment”.