Statistics Canada says retail sales rose 1.1 per cent to $51.3 billion in March boosted by higher sales at gas stations and sellers of building materials, garden equipment and supplies.
Economists had expected an increase of 1.0 per cent for the month, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.
Sales were higher in seven of 11 subsectors tracked by Statistics Canada.
Sales at gasoline stations gained six per cent in March due in large part to higher prices at the pump, while sales at gasoline stations in volume terms were relatively unchanged from February.
Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers increased sales 4.3 per cent in March.
Sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers decreased 0.7 per cent in March as sales at new car dealers fell. Excluding the auto sector, overall retail sales were up 1.7 per cent for the month.