WASHINGTON — Retail sales continued at a strong clip in March, increasing 1.8 percent against February, with clothing and accessory stores posting an impressive 1.9 percent gain, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

Compared with March 2003, clothing and accessory store sales last month surged 9.6 percent to $16.02 billion, outpacing overall retail sales, which climbed 8.2 percent.

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