by Stephen Garner

Retail sales in September increased 0.5 percent over August on a seasonally adjusted basis and were up 3.2 percent year-over-year unadjusted, according to calculations released today by the National Retail Federation. The numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.

September sales were up 3.6 percent on a three-month moving average compared with the same period a year ago. Building materials and supplies stores showed the strongest increase, up 2.1 percent over August seasonally adjusted and up 7.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Online and other non-store sales were up 0.5 percent seasonally adjusted from August and up 5.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Clothing and accessories stores were up 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted from August and up 1.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

General merchandise stores were up 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted over August and up 4.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Electronics and appliance stores led declines, down 1.1 percent seasonally adjusted from August and down 5.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

“Retail appears to have navigated through some rough weather – literally,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at NRF. “Hurricane impacts were very clear, with a strong boost for building materials going a long way to offset downturns elsewhere. Results were mixed among several business lines but the bottom line was a good increase over August and strong growth from a year ago. While the hurricanes played a major role in the data, they did not fundamentally affect the upward path of the economy.”

The September numbers come as retail continues a long-term pattern of increased sales. Total retail sales have grown year-over-year every month since November 2009, and retail sales as calculated by NRF – excluding automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants— have increased year-over-year in all but one month since the beginning of 2010.