The US back-to-school season has started with a bang as shoppers hit the stores in July to take advantage of promotions on items including apparel, shrugging off concerns that consumers would begin pulling back on their spending.

The latest Commerce Department figures show July sales at clothing and accessory retailers were 0.5% higher than the month before, and a solid 7.7% year-over-year. Sales at department stores, however, slipped 0.8% on June, but rose 0.4% on last July.

Total retail sales rose 0.5% month-to-month and 8.5% year-on-year. 

"In a week of stock market volatility, retail continues to be a steadying force in the economic recovery," said Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation (NRF). "Consumers are showing that they still have spending power, and with a renewed focus on job creation we are optimistic this recovery can still get back on track."

"July retail sales make one important point clear - it's very hard to ignore the resilience of the American consumer," added NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. 

"Retailers promotions hit the right chord with back-to-school shoppers last month, helping ease concerns that consumers were pulling back on spending, which so far has been a driving force in the economic recovery."