Retailers have dismissed economists' claims that a turnaround in consumer demand will spearhead growth. They said while demand had stopped falling there is little sign of improvement. Some sectors, such as cars, are still stubbornly sluggish. Economists have been predicting consumer sentiment is on the mend after last year's dismal performance. Hongkong Bank recently said there were signs of improving demand, with retail sales volume rising. It believes the 50-basis-point cut in primes last December helped to stabilise consumer demand with additional deterioration unlikely. Salomon Brothers economist Andrew Freris' revised growth forecast of 5.2 per cent was influenced by first-quarter private consumption figures of 3.5 per cent, the highest since 1994's fourth quarter and up from last quarter's 0.4 per cent. Other factors contributing would be solid investment growth and a stabilising current account deficit. Retail Management Association chairman Rodney Miles said there was no sign of an end to the 17-month retail slump. 'Retail demand is not getting any worse but it's not getting any better. We definitely do not see any sign of an upturn,' he said. 'We are in a far worse situation than I would like to see us. But I'm only a front-line retailer, not a desk-bound economist.' Car sales were also slow, the luxury sector being the hardest hit. Jaguar Hong Kong general manager William Lau said sales to July were down about 16 per cent compared with the same period last year.