Continuing a downturn slide, retail sales fell by 0.6 percent in February, led by sharp declines at car dealerships, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

Furniture, electronics and appliance stores all reported weaker sales last month. Only clothing, sporting goods, books, music and health-care stores saw gains, the report said. 

Despite the widespread declines, sales were up by 2.6 percent from a year ago, including a 20.2 percent increase at gas stations.

The results are based on a survey of 5,500 retail outlets across the country.