Sales at U.S. retailers fell 0.1% in February and declined for the third month in a row, the first time that's happened since 2012.
Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a 0.4% increase in sales.
Sales rose 0.3% last month if autos and gas are stripped out, however.
The decline in retail sales last month was largely concentrated in auto dealers, gas stations and traditional department stores.
Gas station receipts dropped 1.2%, reflecting in part more stable prices after a runup in January.
Sales at auto dealers fell 0.9% for the second month in a row as a post-hurricane spurt in the fall faded away.
And department stores also recorded a 0.9% decline.
A rather mixed February retail report did contain some bright spots. Internet retailers reapted a 1% gain in sales. Home centers, apparel stores and outlets that sell sporting goods also posted higher sale.
The decline in sales in January wasn’t as large as initially reported, either. Sales were revised to show a 0.1% drop instead of 0.3%.