Total sales rose 0.4 percent from September, climbing 3.9 percent from October 2012, the bureau said.
Sales excluding motor vehicles rose 0.2 percent from the previous month -- twice the rate economists expected -- and 2.4 percent from the same month of 2012. Vehicle sales by themselves rose 1.3 percent month to month and 10.6 percent over 12 months.
Sales of food and beverages in retail stores were flat month to month, although sales rose 1 percent at bars and restaurants. Sales of building supplies dropped 1.9 percent from September, but rose 1.6 percent at sports, hobby, book and music stores, the bureau said.