Americans stepped up their spending at auto dealers, hardware stores and e-commerce outlets as retail sales rebounded from two sluggish months.
The Commerce Department said Friday that retail sales increased 0.4 percent in April from March. Sales ticked up just 0.1 percent in March and fell in February.
The increase suggests that consumers are poised to spur faster growth in the April-June quarter after the economy barely expanded in the first three months of the year. Consumer spending — which also includes spending on services such as utilities — rose at its slowest pace in more than seven years in the first quarter.
The rise also indicates that the struggles of large retail chains, such as Macy’s and JC Penney’s, reflect changes in consumer buying patterns more than broader economic weakness. Sales in a category that includes department stores, as well as general retailers such as Wal-Mart, fell 0.5 percent