Total retail sales value of goods and services in the first four months of the year surged 21.6 percent over the same period last year to 762.2 trillion VND (36.6 billion USD ), according to the General Statistics Office (GSO).

However, when price increases were considered, the rise was only 6.1 percent compared with the rate of 14-17 percent of previous years, the GSO said.

An expert of the GSO Trade Department, Vu Manh Ha, said that the low growth during the period was due to the high consumer price index (CPI).

"As income is nearly unchanged or even lower due to the economic difficulties, most consumers have to tighten their belts and spend only on necessary goods to cope with the price hike," Ha said.

Farmers and workers in industrial and service sectors, which account for a large proportion of the country's population, are the most vulnerable in the economic slowdown and have to cut sharply their spending on retail goods and services as their incomes are lower.

Ha said there are no signals to ensure that demand for retail goods and services would increase in the near future as prices for many products are forecast to continue rising due to the recent price hike of petroleum.

However, Vice Chairwoman and General Secretary of the Vietnam Retail Association Dinh Thi My Loan said though the retail market could face difficulties and challenges this year, it remains an attractive destination for foreign investors.

According to a report by AT Kearney, the country's total retail revenue would increase by 23 percent per year between now and 2014. This meant the Vietnamese retail market would offer many opportunities for both domestic and foreign retail businesses.-VNA