The value of retail sales fell 0.4% in February, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Retail sales volumes dipped well below forecasts at 0.8% on the month before to give an annual rise of 1%.
The monthly drop was driven by a fall in sales of fine art and antiques as the “other stores” category recorded its sharpest fall since January 2010. Sales value was down 0.4% on January’s figures.
An estimated £10.6bn was spent in the sector in February.
The proportion of retail sales made online is estimated to have been 10.7% of all retail sales excluding fuel in February 2012.
Textiles contributed 12.2% of all retail sales in February including fuel while household goods accounted for 9.7%.
Retail Vision consultant John Ibbotson said: “These figures are mildly encouraging but retail sales will almost certainly remain flat for the rest of the year.
“While consumers are slightly more confident than they were this time last year, they’re still erring on the side of caution.”
He added: “On top of the economic downturn retailers are still coming to terms with the shift of consumers to online. Sad as it is, the British high street is on borrowed time. Mary Portas is no Mary Poppins.”
“Strong retail sales will return, but when they do come back it will be through online channels.”