Retail sales volumes increased by 3.7% in February compared to the previous year, although quarterly sales fell at their fastest rate in seven years, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics said sales last month increased by 1.4% on January 2017, and 3.7% on February 2016.

However, in the three months to February – considered a gauge of the underlying pattern – sales decreased by 1.4% for the second month in a row, marking the largest decline since March 2010 and only the second quarterly fall since December 2013.

Sales in food stores grew just 0.6% in volume the year to February, and 1.6% in value. The average food price increased by 0.9%.

Online sales increased year-on-year by 20.7% and by 3.3% on the month, accounting for approximately 15.3% of all retail spending.

Commenting on the figures, Richard Lim, chief executive of Retail Economics said: “Retail sales showed their resilience, bouncing back from a poor start to the year.

“That said, underlying conditions remain on a downward trajectory and the backdrop of rising inflation and lacklustre wage growth is beginning to make consumers more cautious.

“Indeed, inflation is rising at the fastest rate in over three years and on its current path we expect real earnings to be shrinking by the summer. As households’ budgets tighten, discretionary spending will come under further pressure.”