While department store cosmetics sales tumble, specialty beauty shops like Ulta and Sephora are seeing a boom.

USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Consumers went out shopping in a big way in July, pushing up retail sales by the largest amount in seven months.

Retail sales advanced 0.6% last month, the best showing since a gain of 0.9 percent last December, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. For most of this year, retail sales have been lackluster, including a decline in May of 0.2% and a modest 0.3% June gain.

Consumer spending accounts for around 70% of economic activity, so the latest result is a good sign for overall economic growth.

Michael Pearce, U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said the strong gain in July sales showed that consumer spending was off to a good start for the third quarter.

“With the labor market still adding jobs…