Consumers were less willing to open up their wallets last month as retail sales fell 1.5%, following a 2.7% increase in August, the Commerce Department reported today.

September’s figures were 5.7% below September 2008. From July through September, retail sales were 6.6% less than the same period last year.

Total retail and food sales in September were $344.6 billion, compared with $349 billion, in August.

September’s numbers showed a 0.5% decrease in non-automobile sales from August, but that number represented a 4.9% drop from September 2008.

There was a 10.4% decline in automobiles and automobile parts sales from August-fueled in part by the end of the “cash for clunkers” program-and a 9.3% decline from September 2008.

Most types of stores had slight increases in sales, but not enough to offset the drop in auto sales.

Furniture stores and gasoline stations had the largest increases, 1.4% and 1.1%, respectively, over August.

In addition to automobile and parts dealers, there were declines at miscellaneous store retailers, building and garden supply stores as well as non-store retailers of 1.9%, 0.2%, and 0.1%, respectively.