The volume of retail sales in February was 0.4 per cent higher than last year, showing the lowest growth rate since September 1995.

According to the Office for National Statistic, sales volumes at non-specialised stores dropped by 5.2 per cent and by 0.6 per cent at food stores.

Non-store retailing and repair, which includes some aspects of internet sales, reported an 8.9 per cent increase in sales volumes year on year.

Month-on-month sales volumes fell 1.9 per cent. Sales volumes in all sectors fell, with the largest fall recorded in the other stores category, by 4.8 per cent. The figure, along with those recorded in January 1995, is the largest fall since records began.

Sales volumes at textile, clothing and footwear stores fell 3.7 per cent.

Retail sales volumes in the three months from December to February rose 2 per cent compared with the previous three months.

Over the three months, sales volumes fell 0.1 per cent for food retailers. In non-food, sales volumes increased 3 per cent – the largest growth since February 2004. The largest three-month increase was for textile, clothing and footwear, up 4.6 per cent – the largest rise since November 2001.

The average weekly value of internet retail sales in February was£167m or 3.4 per cent of total retail sales, an increase of 13.2 per cent year on year.

Capital Economics UK economist Vicky Redwood said: “February’s sharp drop in the official measure of retail sales has ended the recent puzzingly strong run of figures and supports the message given by the more timely surveys that high street spending growth is back on a downward trend.”