The results underscore that the declines from December to February were more of a pause following a post-hurricane spending binge.
Home furnishings store sales grew to $9.93 billion, up from a revised $9.55 billion in March of a year ago, the U.S. Department of Commerce said.
"It's nice to see the bounce-back here - to me it's just on trend", Societe Generale senior US economist Omair Sharif said.
Of 13 major retail categories itemized, eight showed increases. These so-called core retail sales, which correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product, were previously reported to have risen 0.1 percent in February. Sales at non-store retailers grew 9.7 percent year-on-year, led by sound rises in online shopping. Sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies stores were off 0.6 percent for the month, though they were up 5.3 percent for the year.
Consumer optimism has held at relatively high levels thanks to factors including job-market strength, rising wages and lower taxes.
Economists largely blame the weakness in retail sales at the start of the year on delays in processing tax refunds.
Even with the bounceback, consumer spending probably expanded at a slower pace in the first quarter.
The biggest losers for the month seemed to be weather-related, since much of the United States has experienced a cold early spring. The numbers for March suggest consumers are once again willing to spend that to a mixture of good economic news and the impact of the tax cuts passed late previous year. The numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants. Also up for the month, each by less than 1 percent, were furniture stores, electronics stores. grocery stores, restaurants and of course non-store (Internet) sales, which were up 0.8 percent.
The increase followed a 0.1 percent drop in February, which was the third of three consecutive months of decline.