Retail sales on the mainland rose by 15.4 per cent year on year in the first half, signalling domestic consumption's increasing role in boosting economic growth, the National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday. Retail sales revenue rose to 4.2 trillion yuan in the first half of the year, rising at the fastest clip since 1997, statistics bureau spokesman Li Xiaochao said. The growth rate in sales was also 2.1 percentage points higher than the growth rate in the same period last year, he said. Investment in fixed assets increased by 25.9 per cent year on year, Mr Li said. 'Since this year, China's economy has been growing quarter after quarter and, apart from exports, changes in domestic consumption are also a major reason,' Mr Li said. 'Consumption is playing a bigger role in China's economic growth.' Bureau figures showed that retail sales increased by 14.9 per cent in the first quarter and 15.8 per cent in the second quarter. In June alone, they went up by 16 per cent. Consumption by urban residents rose by 15.9 per cent in the first six months to 2.85 trillion yuan. Their rural counterparts consumed 1.35 trillion yuan of goods, up 14.3 per cent. Mr Li said the catering industry grew by 18 per cent, the retail and wholesale sectors by 15.2 per cent and 'others', which was not defined, expanded by 5.3 per cent. The growth was attributed to rising incomes and better social policies to provide more affordable education, medical and housing services, Mr Li said. 'When people are optimistic about the future, [they] have more confidence to consume,' he said. Yi Xianrong , from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said another major reason for the upsurge in retail sales was inflation. A booming property market had also helped to boost retail sales, Professor Yi said.