Growing economic concerns and colder weather had U.S shoppers spending less on clothing, electronics and furniture last month, the Retail Federation reported this week.

Excluding cars, gas and food, retail sales dropped by 0.3 percent in March and were 0.9 percent below the same period last year, the trade group said. Sales of building materials and garden equipment took the biggest hit, dipping 1.6 percent from February and 9.6 percent from 2007, while clothing sales dropped half a percent. Sales of electronics and furniture also declined.

By contrast, sales at health and sporting goods stores were up for the month.

Rosalind Wells, the group's chief economist, attributed the declines to unseasonably cold weather.

"With the earliest Easter in 95 years, the calendar shift will likely impact April sales as well," Wells said in a statement. "In order to get a true picture of retail performance, we will need to look at both March and April sales combined," she said.