cash_registerWASHINGTO DC, Oct 14, 2009 – Thanks to the weather and late back-to-school sales, consumers opened up their wallets last month to treat themselves to new Fall apparel and other discretionary purchases, helping September retail sales see modest improvements.

According to the National Retail Federation, retail industry sales (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) increased 0.5 percent from August, but fell 1.5 percent year-over-year

“Retail is not out of the woods yet, but consumers felt comfortable enough last month to spend on more than just necessities,” said Rosalind Wells, Chief Economist, NRF. “As we head into the essential fourth quarter, retailers will likely continue aggressive promotions and discounts to bring people back into stores.”

September retail sales released today by the U.S. Commerce Department show total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) decreased 1.5 percent seasonally adjusted from the previous month and 5.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Thanks to cooler weather, Labor Day sales and a final push for back-to-school shopping, clothing and clothing accessories stores sales increased 0.5 percent adjusted from August but decreased 0.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Electronics and appliance store sales were flat from the previous month and decreased 9.9 percent unadjusted over last year.

Health and personal care store sales also saw solid growth with sales increasing 0.8 seasonally adjusted from last month and 3.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores sales also increased, with sales rising 0.1 percent adjusted over last month and increasing 2.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.