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During the first nine months, the average sales growth rate for China's top 100 chain stores was lower than 10 percent, compared to 11.6-percent growth for retail sales in the same period, according to the China Chain Store and Franchise Association.
Guo Geping, chairwoman of the CSFA, said at a forum in the port city of Tianjin on Friday that it is the first time chain stores have recorded a lower sales growth rate than that of retail sales since the association began collecting data in 2000.
Consumption demand has dropped on the back of a decelerating economy and competition grows ever more intense, causing an oversupply at some local markets, Guo said.
Another reason is that the economy is losing its traditional advantage in its demographic dividend, as production costs have surged sharply over recent years.
A survey conducted by the association in 69 supermarkets showed that labor costs increased 15 percent year-on-year in the first half of the year, adding to an increase of 19 percent from 2010 to 2011, Guo said.
According to data from the association, sales at the country's top 100 chain stores totaled 1.65 trillion yuan ($262 billion) in 2011.