Thanks to an earlier Easter holiday and unseasonably warm weather, retailers in March saw solid sales growth, according to figures from the National Retail Federation.

March retail sales increased .8 percent seasonally adjusted from February and 6.6 percent unadjusted year-over year.

“Consumers have demonstrated the desire and ability to spend on discretionary items, further helping to spur economic and retail sales growth in the first quarter of 2012,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “While retailers will wait until the end of April to gauge the success of the spring shopping season, it’s evident that consumers are holding their own against rising gas prices and other economic concerns. “

March sales from the NRF do not include cars, gas stations and restaurants. With those included, the U.S. Department of Commerce says retail sales grew 7.4 percent year-over-year.

“Moderate retail sales growth in March will help to offset murkier recent economic employment data,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “We expect to see gains through the all-important summer months, but jobs and weak income growth, coupled with stubbornly high gas costs will continue to force consumer to make tough, price-sensitive choices.”

Other findings:

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– Building material and garden equipment sales increased 3 percent month-to-month and 12.4 percent year-over year.

-Clothing and clothing accessories increased.9 percent month-to-month and 12.5 percent year-over year.

– Spring goods, hobby, book and music store’ sales increased .5 percent month-to-month and 8.9 percent year-over-year.