With an early Easter, March and April together should give a clearer picture of underlying demand levels, say retail analysts.
Retail sales for February showed a weakening in volumes from January with non-food sales volumes in February +5.2% year-on-year, down from +7.4% in January, but producing a better performance than that in December.
Retail analysts Credit Suisse said: "The overall figure of +5.5% for February beat the market expectations of +3.5% but has, once again, been heavily influenced by food, which saw a strong acceleration in year-on-year growth with continued upwind from inflation.
"Clearly, however, signs of discounting are still evident, particularly in household goods and within the non-specialists, which have historically included many of the large quoted non-food retailers."
Total sales in value terms were +5.0% year-on-year in February, with food sales continuing to out-pace non-food.
Within non-food, volume growth slowed within households goods from +8.7% in January to +2.5% in February, 'although a significant degree of deflation was still present and no doubt at the expense of margins,' the analyst concluded.
It added: "Overall the figures paint a less bleak picture than the recent BRC (British Retail Consortium) sales figures although in our view both are directionally correct with slowing volume and value growth in February."