Sales excluding autos and gasoline rose 0.5% after a 0.3% rise.
Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity.
Furniture and home furnishings stores outperformed the broader retail sector with a 5.6% jump in sales over the same month previous year, according to the latest government report. "We have yet to see the full effect of back-to-school spending, but pickup in spending was evident both online and in general merchandise, which includes bricks-and-mortar department stores". Kleinhenz noted that rising home values are encouraging home-improvement spending and home-related retail purchases.
Year-over-year growth was up 4 percent on a three-month moving average. The retail sales for the month of June were revised to show a 0.3% gain instead of the 0.2% drop that was reported previously.
The June advance handily beat the median forecast of a 0.4 percent in a Reuters poll of analysts.
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Building materials and supplies stores were also strong.
Sporting goods stores increased 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted from June but decreased 5.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
However, cheap gasoline and falling sales of electronics and clothing items still weighed on sales last month.
Sales also rose 1.2% at auto dealers, 1.2% at home and garden centers and even 1% at department stores that have been losing ground to Internet rivals.
Americans spent more freely in July and upward revisions to sales in the prior two months show strong hiring, limited inflation and low borrowing costs are improving purchasing power.