Overall retail sales declined 0.9 percent in May. If autos are excluded from the equation, the drop came in at a smaller 0.4 percent.
The erosion in retail sales overall was the largest since November's 2.6 percent drop. Sales at auto and parts dealers dropped 2.5 percent while gas station sales fell a hefty 3.1 percent, their biggest fall since December, largely reflecting lower gasoline prices in the month.
Other categories posting declines included building materials, clothing, restaurants and bars, and department stores. The 2.8 percent drop in apparel sales was the largest since September 2001.
Purchases of electronics and appliances bounced back in May, seeing a 2.1 percent increase after a 0.5 percent decline in April, and retail sales outside of autos and gasoline posted only a 0.1 percent decrease in May, a smaller drop than the overall decline.