RETAIL sales rose in February - after a sluggish start to the year.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics showed sales were better than expected last month.
Retail sales volumes rose by 0.5% after a 1.6% decline in January.
But analysts - who had forecast growth of 0.4% for February - said they remained worried about the spending intentions of UK households.
The CBI and the British Retail Consortium have already fuelled concerns about the state of the high street by releasing poor monthly sales figures.
The ONS figures showed competition remained fierce - as prices were 1.1% lower in February than a year ago.
Clothing stores enjoyed improved sales during the month, but shops selling household goods suffered a decline.
Tom Vosa, chief economist for Yorkshire Bank, said cold weather had strengthened clothing sales, adding: "It seems that retailers once again were forced to discount in order to drive some growth in volumes.
"It is clear the pick-up in housing market activity is not feeding through into household goods sales."
Mr Vosa said consumers were avoiding "big-ticket" items such as furniture, kitchens and bathrooms.
"The outlook for department stores remains grim, with the sector failing to benefit from the rise in activity," he said.