WASHINGTON (AP) - Retail sales registered a modest gain in November, a sign that holiday shopping is off to a solid though unspectacular start.

WASHINGTON (AP) Retail sales registered a modest gain in November, a sign that holiday shopping is off to a solid though unspectacular start.

The Commerce Department says retail sales rose a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent last month, after rising 0.1 percent in October. It was unchanged in September and August.

Much of the lackluster sales growth stems from cheaper gasoline, which caused purchases at gas stations to fall 0.8 percent last month. Excluding gas, retail sales improved 0.3 percent last month and 3.6 percent from a year ago.

Shoppers picked up their spending last month at clothiers, sporting goods stores, online retailers and electronics outlets. Sales also improved at restaurants and grocers.

But auto buying dipped, as did purchases at building material stores. Department stores reported flat sales.