Retail and food services sales increased a seasonally adjusted 0.3% to $427 billion for February, according to a Commerce Department report (link opens as PDF) released today. 

After tumbling a revised 0.6% in January, analysts had expected a comeback, but their 0.2% growth prediction proved slightly too conservative. 

Top-line numbers look much the same when accounting for more volatile automobile and gasoline sales. Auto sales also increased 0.3% for February, keeping retail sales less motor vehicles at 0.3%. Analysts had expected just 0.1% growth. When excluding gasoline stations' 0.1% month-over-month gain, as well, retail sales still maintained 0.3% growth.



Outside of these two sectors, health stores and nonstore retailers led sales with 1.2% increases, while miscellaneous store retailers (e.g., florists and pet shops) lagged with a 0.9% drop.

Over the last year, retail sales are up 1.5%, boosted higher by nonstore retailers (+6.3%), health stores (+5.5%), and building material and garden equipment stores (+3.2%). The combined category of "sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores" has fared the worst, down 5.2% since February 2013. 

Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.