The volume of retail sales excluding petrol dropped by 1% in February on the previous month, while value sales, excluding petrol, slumped 0.4% according to the Office of National Statistics.
Compared to the same month a year earlier, volume sales excluding petrol were up 1.2% and value sales rose by 3.5%.
Non-food volume sales dropped 1.6% with volume sales from textiles, clothing and footwear stores down 1.3%.
By value, non-food stores sales were down 0.7%.
Richard Lowe, head of retail & wholesale at Barclays Corporate, said: “Sales volumes were weaker than expected last month as the squeeze on consumers’ disposable incomes continued to be felt by retailers.”
He added: “As petrol prices soar on the back of high oil prices, the Chancellor’s decision to reduce duty on the price of petrol by 1p may offer some comfort to retailers trying to tempt consumers into their cars and to out-of-town shopping centres and retail parks. But as pressure on household budgets mount and with no let up in the austerity measures from the Chancellor’s Budget, trading will continue to be challenging.”
Director general of the British Retail Consortium, Stephen Robertson, said: “After a boost in January from one-off factors, including a final burst of pre VAT-rise spending, February’s figures are a more realistic picture of how things are for consumers and for retailers.
“Customers are seriously concerned about jobs and mounting pressures on their own finances.” He added that it was “sales of things like clothing and household goods that are struggling most”.