CHINA'S move to encourage home ownership will help rein in retail growth this year to about nine per cent after last year's expansion of about 15 per cent, according to the Trade Development Council (TDC). ''The Chinese authorities have sent out a directive this year to enterprises to actively encourage the staff to buy their own homes. That means people will hold back some of their disposable income and will not spend as much on consumer goods as last year,'' TDC assistant executive director Mary Wong said. She said that after the buying frenzy late last year and early this year to hedge against inflation and currency depreciation, there were few consumer items left for the Chinese to spend on. Also, China was consolidating the retail sector, especially in key cities where cut-throat competition had emerged, before approving other major retail projects. ''The effect of these three factors will lead to slower consumer spending and hence retail growth this year,'' Ms Wong said. Last year, a buying spree led to an expansion of between 12 and 15 per cent in retail sales, depending on the cities. In 1992, China's total retail sales reached about 1.1 trillion yuan (about HK$973.5 billion) . Analysts said the country's latest 100 billion yuan issue of treasury bonds and Beijing's first public issue of shares last week would also absorb disposable incomes. ''All these measures are likely to dampen the wild retail spending we saw in recent months,'' said a China analyst. Ms Wong said with the move to control retail spending amid double-digit retail inflation, China was unlikely to open up more cities for joint-venture stores of foreign investors this year despite a trend towards liberalisation. So far, it has singled out 11 cities as ''retail trial points'' where foreign investors joining up with domestic department stores could enjoy preferential import privileges and taxes. They are the five special economic zones and Dalian, Tianjin, Qingdao, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai. Fifteen other cities including Wuhan, Shenyang, Nanjing and Harbin had also applied to join the retail experiment. Two of the largest Sino-foreign retail joint ventures are the CVIC Yaohan Shopping Centre and Yansha Friendship Shopping City in Beijing. Spurred by foreign competition, China's own big retailers have streamlined and upgraded their stores to maintain their share of the consumer dollar. ''Chinese stores are not only competing intensely among themselves but are also feeling the pinch of foreign competition and many have streamlined and upgraded their operations,'' said Ms Wong, adding that some were highly conscious of space efficiency. The result was a dramatic increase in their turnover last year. China's retail giant, the Shanghai No 1 Department Store, recorded at least a 30 per cent jump in turnover, to 1.83 billion yuan, last year. Other retailers with turnover of one billion yuan or more were Beijing Xidan Department Store (1.37 billion yuan), Shanghai Hualian Commercial Building (1.22 billion), Beijing Department Store (1.12 billion), Shenyang Zhongxing Department Store (1.03 billion), and Wuhan Department Store (one billion).