Retail sales growth rebounded by a better-than-expected 7.1 per cent in July as local and tourist shopping helped boost sales of electronics products and department store goods, the government said. The strong result lifted total retail sales to HK$18.6 billion. The consensus estimate was 5.2 per cent, unchanged from June, which saw sales suffer as a result of World Cup soccer matches keeping consumers at home. 'The improving employment conditions, rising household income and recent pause in US interest rate hikes all helped to underpin consumer confidence,' a government spokesman said. 'Looking ahead, the local retail business should continue to fare well on the back of sustained strong consumer sentiment. Also, the continuous expansion of inbound tourism would render further support.' HSBC economist George Leung Siu-kay, who had forecast a 6.4 per cent rise for the 'usually quiet' month of July, said the robust sales growth is increasingly being fuelled by domestic demand as tourist growth is slowing. The number of mainland visitors increased by only 4.4 per cent year on year in July, the Tourism Board reported. 'Retail sales depend on tourist spending. Private consumption by local residents has usually been for services, but with growth in mainland tourists slowing, it appears that private consumption is spreading more to goods,' Mr Leung said. Census and Statistics Department data indicate sales of electrical goods rose the most by volume in July, up 12.8 per cent. Department store sales also surged, jumping by 11.8 per cent, followed by footwear with an increase of 11.1 per cent. Fuel sales dropped, by 5.1 per cent, as did jewellery, watches and clocks, which dipped 1.9 per cent. Mr Leung expected retail sales to average 6 per cent growth in the second half of the year.