Retail sales climbed 0.3% in November from the previous month as consumers increased spending on cars and electronics, the federal government reported.
Categories that include building materials and sporting goods also led gains in consumer spending last month, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Sales at gas stations saw the biggest declines last month, reflecting a fall in gasoline prices in November.
November's gain, while lower than expected, follows a 0.3% decrease in retail sales in October, compared to September.
November's estimate of $412.4 billion in retail sales was a 3.7% increase over the same month in 2011. The report includes sales from Black Friday, the post-Thanksgiving start of the holiday shopping season.
The Commerce Department said it could not isolate the effects of Superstorm Sandy, which slammed into the East Coast in late October and threw a wrench into economic activity. The department said firms reported both positive and negative effects from the storm.