The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said consumer spending increased by 1.1% in February from a year earlier, representing a fall after inflation is taken into account, and slightly below the 1.2% rise in January.

"As many households continue to adapt budgets to meet higher essential costs, including higher mortgage rates, consumer reluctance to get out there and start spending is likely to remain in the short term," Linda Ellett, KPMG's UK head of consumer markets, leisure & retail, said.

Ellett said that cuts in National Insurance social security contributions, which came into effect in January and which finance minister Jeremy Hunt said would help put more money in people's pockets, did little to encourage consumer spending.

Hunt, who has so far played down speculation of big pre-election tax cuts, is due to deliver his Spring Statement on Wednesday.

Separate data from Barclays on Tuesday showed the weakest increase in consumer spending in nearly two years, reflecting a drop in store spending as consumers avoided shopping in stores due to rainy weather.

Overall, Barclays customers spent 1.9% more on debit and credit cards in February compared to a year ago, the smallest increase since September 2022 and slowing down from January's 2.9% growth.

However, the bank said consumers' confidence about non-essential spending was the highest since November 2021 while concerns about inflationary pressures softened to the weakest since Barclays started tracking the data more than two years ago.

"While many people will have taken advantage of recent price promotions, they look to have held back on spending at least some of what they saved elsewhere," Jack Meaning, chief UK economist at Barclays, said.

(Reporting by Suban Abdulla, editing by Andy Bruce)