Retail sales climbed by value but fell by volume in February, official data has shown.

Sales by value, excluding fuel, rose 6.3% year on year over the month, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported. Volume was down 3.3% over the same period.

Month on month, value and volume sales rose 2.2% and 1.5% respectively as department stores and clothing shops – especially discount stores − put on volume growth.

Volumes at non-food stores rose 2.4% in February, while food store volumes were up 0.9%. Non-store volumes, primarily online, edged up 0.2%.

The ONS reported that the non-food performance was strong at department stores – up 5.5% by volume over the month – and clothing stores, which were ahead 2.9%. The ONS observed: “Growth in both sub-sectors was because of strong sales at discount stores.”

Food stores’ positive performance over the month “may be because of reduced spending in pubs and restaurants as people eat in more because of cost-of-living pressures”.

McKinsey & Company partner Gizem Günday said: “Prolonged high inflation has meant we haven’t seen an uptick in spending volumes around special events, such as Christmas.

“So, with Easter and Ramadan ahead, retailers will be looking to their price and promotional strategies to help drive volume without significantly impacting their margins. Consumer spending on food will likely form a more significant part of this occasion spend than other categories such as clothing, as people seek to celebrate with their families.” 

PwC industry leader for consumer markets Lisa Hooker said: “Overall, retail spending appears to be more resilient than many expected at the start of the year. While consumers face cost-of-living challenges and interest rate rises, this has been offset to some extent by wage rises and caps on energy prices.

”If, as expected, inflation continues to abate, retailers will be hoping the current sales momentum picks up pace as the year progresses, possibly even in time for May’s coronation, but certainly towards the end of the year when we expect disposable incomes to start increasing in real terms.”