Retail sales rose in March but across the quarter were “subdued overall”.

Year-on-year sales, excluding fuel, climbed 7.7% by value over the month and were up 7.9% by volume, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported. Compared to February 2020, the increases were 3.2% and 3.8% respectively.

Sales were up 4.8% by value and 4.9% by volume month on month. However, on a three-month basis sales fell 5.7% and volume fell 6% versus the previous quarter.

The ONS found non-food stores made the biggest positive contribution to the monthly sales growth in March when there were ”strong increases of 17.5% and 13.4% in clothing stores and other non-food stores respectively”. Food stores generated monthly growth of 2.5%.

The proportion of sales online slipped to 34.7% versus 36.2% in February but were still well above the 23.1% they accounted for in March 2020.

The ONS said: “The value of online spending did increase in March, but spending in-store increased at a faster rate.”

In March, there were still strict lockdown restrictions on ‘non-essential’ retail but some travel and social distancing restrictions were lifted at the end of the month.

The ONS said over the quarter, compared to the previous three months, there were ”strong declines in both clothing stores and other non-food stores as a result of the tighter lockdown restrictions in place”.