Like-for-like retail sales in February rose 1.5% but clothing and footwear sales were well below last year for the fifth consecutive month.
The British Retail Consortium said that despite continued discounting and promotions, clothing sales had continued to decline. Kidswear pulled in a stronger performance than womenswear and menswear, but kidswear still fell below its performance in February 2007.
The BRC added that basic essentials and value ranges had held up as consumers had cut back on discretionary spending. It added that top-end designer fashion had benefited from high earners continuing to spend and that the accessories, lingerie and jewellery sectors had also been boosted by Valentine's Day and Mothering Sunday.
Footwear sales also suffered in February after clearance Sales ended. Men's footwear fell back further than women's. Value lines and smart shoes sold better than fashion casuals because of the slowdown in consumer spending. Premium designer shoes outperformed the sector but kid's shoe sales fell back sharply after several good months.
Department stores also suffered because of their reliance on clothing, footwear and homeware while mail order sales were mixed with some mail order retailers reporting a good start to spring fashions.
Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC said: "Belt tightening began in earnest in February when the Christmas and new Year credit card bills came home to roost. Although a welcome boost was provided by this year's early Mothering Sunday, which helped food sales as well as health and beauty, customers remained cautious."