If things are really starting to look up for China's economy, as a recent spate of better-than-expected government data seems to suggest, nobody appears to have told its biggest retailers.
A Reuters review of first-half earnings showed that more than 20 Chinese companies selling everything from footwear to food were not convinced the economic slowdown had bottomed out, and neither were their traditionally thrifty customers.
"The reality behind the numbers is gloomier," said leading footwear retailer Belle International as a raft of data, supported by government statements, indicated the world's second largest economy may be stabilizing after two years of slumping growth.
"There are uncertainties in future prospects as the economy is struggling with a difficult transition involving structural re-balancing and revamping the growth model," said Belle, which has a market value of $11.6 billion and manages more than 18,000 retail outlets across 360 Chinese cities.
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"As a defensive reaction, consumers are becoming more inclined to save and less willing to spend," it added.
Economists have long doubted the accuracy of official economic data and this skepticism has increased as China plots a course towards consumption-led growth. The official retail sales measure, for example, counts a sale from when an item is shipped, rather than when it is actually sold.
The latest data, however, supports retailers' complaints.
Retail sales grew 13.2 percent in July year-on-year, a slowdown from 14.3 percent annual growth in 2012, and 17.1 percent growth in 2011.
"Consumer sentiment showed no sign of significant recovery, affecting many businesses," said menswear retailer China Lilang, which has nearly 3,500 stores across China.
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This uncertainty about the future underscores the difficulty both the government and retailers have to persuade consumers to throw open their wallets in a nation with one of the highest household savings rates in the world.
"The traditional retail industry has reached an inflection point due to the combination of a variety of factors, including slower economic growth, changing consumer habits and rapid growth of e-commerce," said Lianhua Supermarket, which operates more than 4,500 outlets across China.
"The increase in the overall savings rate indicates that China still has a long way to go to transform into a consumption-driven economy," it said in its earnings statement.
The personal savings of mainland households was about 38 percent of disposable income in 2012, according to economists. The International Monetary Fund said China's urban household savings rate was less than 20 percent of disposable income in the mid-1990s.