Though at first glance retail sales may appear sluggish due to a slow automotive market, traditional retailers saw better-than-expected sales in September. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), September retail sales in the GAFS category, which includes most general merchandise categories, increased 0.2% seasonally adjusted from August, and jumped 6.9% from the same period last year.

Sales in Sporting Goods, Hobby, Book & Music stores were off 1.9% from August — seasonally-adjusted — and essentially flat to last year's September's figures. Again the drag appears to be coming out of the weakness in Books and Music stores as more of that business moves to the Internet.

September retail sales released this week by the U.S. Commerce Department show that total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) dropped 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted for the month due to sluggish sales of automotives. Retail sales rose 9.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

“Though the automotive sector was weak, traditional retail sales were very healthy last month,” said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells. “The momentum apparent in the economy and in retail sales will lead to a very happy holiday for the nation’s retailers.”

NRF continues to project that holiday sales will rise 5.7 percent over last year.

Cool fall weather, attractive fashions, and pent-up demand in September made for a strong September for the nation’s apparel retailers. Clothing and clothing accessories stores showed strong growth in September, rising a solid 10.0 percent unadjusted for the year and 1.4 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month. Health and personal care stores also grew by 8.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year and 0.4 percent adjusted month-to-month. Additionally, building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers rose 15.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year and 1.9 percent adjusted from August.

Third quarter sales were better than projected, with GAFS sales from July-September increasing 6.3 percent over last year, higher than NRF’s projection of 5.8 percent growth.