That supports the Federal Reserve's view that such weakness was transitory, as well as the central bank's outlook for two or three more interest-rate increases this year after a quarter-point hike in March.
Non-store retailers like Amazon continued to gain, rising 0.8 per cent for the month, putting them up almost 10 per cent over March of past year. Compared with March 2017, the total is 4.7 percent higher.
Online retail sales increased 0.8 percent in March and have risen almost 10 percent compared to a year ago.
The data April 16 also showed that a decline in gasoline costs, as reported last week in the Labor Department's consumer-price index, may have weighed on filling-station receipts. Excluding both autos and gasoline, sales rose 0.3 per cent.
Among the brightest spots in Monday's report was auto sales, which jumped 2 percent, the most in six months.
Last month's pick-up in core retail sales did little to change expectations of a sharp slowdown in consumer spending in the first quarter.
Retail sales are closely watched by economists because they provide an early read on consumer spending, the principal driver of the US economy.
"We believe those forces will remain supportive for consumption in the second quarter, and after today's number remain comfortable with prospects for a rebound in household outlays this quarter".
Economic growth estimates for the January-March quarter are running below a 2 percent rate. Sales at furniture stores climbed 0.7 percent while those at electronics and appliance stores increased 0.5 percent.
Total sales grew at a 0.6% month-on-month pace in March to reach $509.4bn (consensus: 0.2%), according to the Department of Commerce. Sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies stores were off 0.6 percent for the month, though they were up 5.3 percent for the year. Bars and restaurants gained 0.4 per cent.
Sporting goods stores were down 0.9% year-over-year and down 1.8% from February seasonally adjusted.
"This is a healthy spending report despite market volatility, unseasonable weather and uncertain economic policies", NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement.