Retail sales volumes in the UK declined by 0.5% last month after increasing 0.4% in April, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have shown.

The drop in sales volumes was attributed to a 1.6% fall in food store sales, indicating that customers spent less in food stores due to increases in prices and the cost of living.

In a statement, ONS said: “When asked about their shopping habits in the past two weeks, 44% of adults reported that they were buying less food when food shopping.

“This proportion appears to be increasing, having been 41% in the previous period (27 April to 8 May) and 18% at the beginning of (this year).

“Comments from some food retailers highlighted that they are seeing a decline in volumes sold because of increased food prices and cost of living impacts.”

Despite the fall in retail sales volumes, the figure was 2.6% above pre-Covid-19 levels recorded in February 2020.

Retail sales values in May, unadjusted for price changes, grew by 0.6% after increasing 1.0% in the previous month.

Sales volumes at non-food stores remained flat from April during the month, after a 2.2% growth in clothing sales was counterbalanced by a decline in household goods store sales (-2.3%) such as furniture and department stores.

The UK’s automotive fuel sales volumes rose by 1.1% in May, driven by increased hybrid working and an end to many employers’ work-from-home policies.

The proportion of retail sales online declined from 27.1% in April to 26.6% in May, while online spending values also fell by 1.7% during the month.

In the three months to May, retail sales volumes in the UK fell by 1.3% compared with the previous three months.

Last week, the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) latest monthly Distributive Trades Survey revealed that UK retail sales volumes in the year to June dropped to -5% from -1% in May.