Following months of flat growth, retail sales excluding cars rose by 0.5 percent last month to $378.1 billion, the sharpest month-to-month increase this year, the Commerce Department reported this week.

Retail sales were up by two percent from last year, despite a 2.8 percent decline in auto sales that dragged overall sales down by 0.2 percent from March, the report said.

Rosalind Wells, the National Retail Federation's chief economist, said spring weather brought shoppers back to stores in April. She called the gains a welcome reprieve.

Sales of building materials and garden supplies rose by 1.9 percent last month. Increases were also reported at health, sports and music stores.