U.S. retail sales increased in September for the fifth month in a row, as consumers prepared for further months of working and studying from home by spending on vehicles, sporting goods and at home-improvement stores.

A measure of purchases at stores, restaurants and online, retail sales increased a seasonally adjusted 1.9% in September from the prior month, the Commerce Department reported Friday, outstripping economists’ expectations for a 0.7% rise.

“September is kind of a hinge month” between the back-to-school and holiday seasons, said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a consulting firm. He added that this year’s back-to-school season pushed further into September because many schools delayed opening for in-person classes, giving sales of school supplies and computers a second wind.

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