Though down for the month, retail sales in January 2018 were still 3.6 percent higher than January 2017.
Data for December was revised to show sales unchanged instead of rising 0.4 percent as previously reported.
The surprise slowdown comes after a three-month stretch of sizzling consumer activity, from September through November, which had fueled the most robust holiday sales in a decade.
"Overall, some of the weakness in January retail sales could be linked to the unusually high number of reported flu cases last month but, on balance, it was probably inevitable that sales would start to slow after their recent strength", Andrew Hunter, US Economist at Capital Economics.
Retail trade sales were down 0.3% from December 2017, but 3.9% above past year. A few categories gained both in monthly and annual sales, such as (remarkably) department stores, up 0.8 percent for the month and 0.4 percent for the year, perhaps because numerous category's weakest stores have already closed. Nonstore retailers were up 10.2% from January 2017, while gasoline stations were up 9.0% from past year. But both were up for the year: food service and drinking places by 2.1 percent and Internet sales by 10.2 percent.
Sales at gasoline stations rose 1.6 during January after growing 0.3% in December.
President Donald Trump insists that his economic program, which includes a $1.5 trillion tax cut, deregulation and increased infrastructure spending, will boost economic growth to 3 percent or better. Auto and auto part sales were up a strong 4.2 percent for the year, however.
That was double the estimate for deficits that Trump made in his first budget previous year.