China's retail sales rose eight per cent year-on-year in the first half of 2003 despite the SARS outbreak, figures released by the China General Chamber of Commerce have revealed.

Chamber chiefs say they expect retail sales to rebound to nine per cent in the second half of 2003 and about 8.5 per cent for the full year.

Retail sales rose just 4.3 per cent in May, the lowest increase in five years, as high streets were hammered by the SARS crisis.