Sales for the month were 0.1 percent higher than March and 3.7 percent higher than April 2012, the gains ahead of the forecast, which called for a 0.3 percent month-to-month drop.
The bureau said vehicle sales climbed 1 percent from March, while furniture sales were flat. Building supply sales rose 1.5 percent, while gasoline sales dropped 4.7 percent, largely due to falling prices.
Non-store sales, which includes Internet and catalog sales rose 1.4 percent from March.
From April 2012, the figures change. On a 12-month basis, automobile sales rose 7.7 percent, while furniture sales rose 3.9 percent. Building supply sales are up 4.1 percent from April 2012. Over the same period, gasoline station sales are off 4.6 percent, while non-store sales are up 15.4 percent.