NRF reported a 0.3% annual gain on a seasonally-adjusted basis from February to March, with annual retail sales in March up 5%.
Retail sales-a measure of outlays at stores, restaurants and websites-increased a seasonally adjusted 0.6% in March from the prior month, the Commerce Department said Monday. That compared with the median estimate of economists for a 0.4 percent increase.
Home furnishings store sales grew to $9.93 billion, up from a revised $9.55 billion in March of a year ago, the U.S. Department of Commerce said.More news: Turkey Won't Refuse to Cooperate With Russia, Iran on Syria - Deputy PM
Of 13 major retail categories itemized, eight showed increases. Sales at health and personal-care stores rose 1.4 percent, the most in two years. Excluding automobiles and gasoline, sales advanced 0.3 percent for a second month.
Economists largely blame the weakness in retail sales at the start of the year on delays in processing tax refunds.
Last month's pick-up in core retail sales did little to change expectations of a sharp slowdown in consumer spending in the first quarter. Some also argue that income tax cuts, which came into effect in January, only reflected on most workers' paychecks in late February.More news: 'I am gay' protest rocks China's Weibo after 'clean-up campaign'
Even with the bounceback, consumer spending probably expanded at a slower pace in the first quarter.
Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of US economic activity, grew at a robust 4.0 percent annualised rate in the fourth quarter.
Consumers snapped up electronics, shopped online and frequented bars and restaurants, but sales sagged at department stores, gas stations and clothing outlets, according to the Commerce Department report.More news: Telegram App Banned in Russian Federation
Meanwhile, sales dropped at building material & garden equipment supplies dealers, clothing and accessories stores and sporting goods hobby, books and music.