American shoppers cut back on spending in September, suggesting that a slowdown in the manufacturing sector could be spreading to the broader economy.
The Commerce Department on Wednesday said retail sales fell 0.3% last month, the first monthly decline since February.
The drop came as a surprise to economists, who had expected sales to rise.
According to the report, American households slashed spending on online purchases, building materials and especially automobiles.
Auto sales fell 0.9% in September - the most in 8 months.
Meanwhile, the report said the closely watched core retail sales were unchanged last month. The figure strips out purchases of autos and gasoline, and is seen by economists as a better gauge of underlying buying trends.
The weak retail sales report keeps the door open for the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates again later this month, with trade headwinds already leading economists to expect the cut.