DEPARTMENT stores are bracing for another poor year following the release of grim official retail sales figures yesterday. Hong Kong retail sales for November 1994 grew only 2.8 per cent to $16.38 billion over the same month in 1993. Economists said the figures reflected battered sentiment in the stock market and property sector, and rising interest rates. Bank of East Asia (BEA) head of economic research, Raymond Kwok Hung-fai said: 'The figures were expected. Retail sales have not been encouraged at all by rising interest rates and turmoil in the stock and property markets.' Mr Kwok said November was also the month when liberalisation of time deposits took place, encouraging a funds shift from savings to time deposits, further reducing retail spending. Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce chief economist, Ian Perkin said the results were not too bad: 'At least it has not fallen into the negative.' He said November figures were dragged down by poor sales of motor vehicles and department store figures. Sales of motor vehicles and parts plunged 18.1 per cent in November, year-on-year. Department stores, hit by high overheads, reported sales down 9.6 per cent. Mr Perkin attributed the fall in motor vehicle sales to government efforts to cut the number of cars on the road and the huge base to which motor vehicles sales had grown. Meanwhile, major department stores in the territory had little optimism about sales this year. Yaohan Department Store managing director Yuji Sakuma said: 'We cannot expect tremendous sales growth like before. Larger discounts may be offered this year, maybe more than 50 per cent to attract customers.' Seibu marketing manager Raymond Leung also had reservations because the stock market, real estate and political uncertainties, would make most people want to hold on to their capital. 'They want to have cash in hand as long as uncertainties are around. Luxury wear and items will be most affected,' he said. Mr Leung also said his company expected to offer discounts in a bigger range, particularly for trendy items whose popularity may fade with winter.