US retail sales rose sharply in September, official data released Monday showed, suggesting improving consumer optimism heading into the year-end holiday shopping season. Retail and food services sales rose 1.1 percent from August, the Commerce Department said, well above the 0.7 percent increase forecast by most analysts. Excluding gasoline sales, which gained 2.4 percent, retail sales rose 1.0 percent in September following a 0.8 percent rise in the prior month. On a 12-month basis, sales were up 5.4 percent in September. The department revised higher its July and August numbers by 0.4 point, to 0.7 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively. \"The consumer appears to have put in a solid month of spending growth in September and over the last three months nominal spending growth has perked up significantly,\" said RDQ Economics analysts. Retail sales are a major component of consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity.