Last month, auto sales surged 0.8 percent after declining 0.5 percent in August. Receipts at service stations fell 0.8 percent, likely reflecting a moderation in gasoline prices.
Sales at clothing stores rebounded 0.5 percent after tumbling 2.8 percent in August. Online and mail-order sales soared 1.1 percent in September after rising 0.5 percent in the prior month.
Receipts at furniture stores increased 1.1 percent. But Americans cut back on spending at restaurants and bars, with sales dropping 1.8 percent. That was the biggest decline since December 2016.
While the Commerce Department said it was impossible to determine the impact of Hurricane Florence on the data, disruptions caused by the storm could have hurt sales at restaurants and bars last month.
Sales at building material stores nudged up 0.1 percent in September. Spending at hobby, musical instrument and book stores increased 0.7 percent last month.