Beijing-based retailer Jingkelong is to open 40 new stores in the capital this year, maintaining its expansion pace despite the Chinese economy's slowdown.

The new outlets will include two hypermarkets, eight supermarkets, eight convenience stores, and over 20 franchise stores, backed by an investment of about CNY200m (US$29.2m), according to the company.

Jingkelong already has more than 240 stores in the city and competes with another domestic firm, Wumart, for rising demand for supermarket goods.

Zhang Jia, an investor relations official, told just-food that Jingkelong was expanding at the same "steady pace" as in previous years.  She added that though the retailer may be affected by slower growth in the Chinese economy, "we sell necessities so the effect on us should be quite small".

Retail data from last week's Chinese New Year holiday, traditionally a time when sales surge, suggests that consumers are not cutting back, despite the slowdown. Sales were up 13.8% from the equivalent holiday week in 2008, the Ministry of Commerce said.

Zhang added that the slowdown could also present opportunities. "For instance, the rent could be lower this year."

Jingkelong's sales increased 27.9% in the first nine months of 2008 to CNY5.21bn.