Americans stepped up their retail spending in September, reflecting stronger sales of autos, electronics, and building supplies. Retail sales rose 1.1% last month, the Commerce Department said today. That followed a 1.2% increase in August, which was revised slightly higher. Both were the largest gains since October 2010. Sales rose in most major categories. Electronics and appliances surged 4.5%, in part because of the release of the new iPhone. Sales at auto dealers increased 1.3%. Building materials, garden supplies, furniture, and clothing sales all increased, too.
Economists said the September increase should help drive slightly stronger growth in the July-September quarter. But they cautioned that some of the jump was driven by the release of the iPhone 5. "This shouldn't be considered the start of a consumer revival," said one. "This is a one-time boost that will be reversed in the coming months." Some of the increases were also driven by higher prices. Gas station sales also rose 2.5%, and food sales increased 1.2%. The recent drought may have driven some food prices higher, economists noted. Still, excluding autos and gas, sales were up a solid 0.9% in September.