Retail like-for-likes dropped 1% in February after a bumper January when they rose 3.9%.
The decline in sales values was driven by supermarket discounting campaigns launched by the value grocers that resulted in a sharp slowdown in overall price inflation in the food sector, the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor showed.
Total sales edged up 0.7% against a 4.4% increase in February 2013. Home accessories was the top performing category last month.
Online sales of non-food products were up 14.3%.
Over a three-month period, average total growth was 2.8%, in line with the 12-month trend of 2.7%, and within that food sales were up 0.4% while non-food sales jumped 4.7%.
British Retail Consortium director general Helen Dickinson said: “Our sales figures for February show a slower pace of growth in the retail industry than in previous months, underlining that the consumer-led recovery is still developing.
“However, this slower growth might have been expected in some ways, given the record sales figures we saw in January and the strong results that we are comparing against from last year.
“If they were taken together, the figures from the last three months show a 2.8% average growth in the retail industry, a modest increase on the 12-month average.
“Once again, furniture and home accessories were the best performing categories. This further illustrates the impact of the continued recovery in the housing market on the wider economy. On the other hand, food sales continued to stay relatively flat.
“Overall, these figures reflect the considerable challenges still faced by consumers and retailers in the UK. It remains to be seen how the industry will fare over 2014.”
KPMG head of retail David McCorquodale said: “February saw a hiatus on the high street, with online sales soaring while in store sales stalled. There’s no doubt inclement weather exacerbated this trend, but it certainly underscores the importance of having a sophisticated online operation.
“The grocery sector remains fiercely competitive. February’s figures were impacted by the discounting campaigns launched by the value grocers, which caused a sharp slowdown of overall price inflation in the food sector.
“There were some bright spots amidst the gloom. The effects of a rapidly recovering housing market are already feeding through to the retail sector, with sales of furniture and home accessories remaining solid.”