The Balearic commercial sector is keeping its fingers crossed that the winter sales, which start on Monday, will be more successful than the summer sales. For the first time ever, the summer sales started three weeks later than usual, in accordance with new Balearic commercial law, and were a flop. The subsequent row between the commercial sector and the government resulted in the law being amended and shopkeepers are hoping that the forthcoming sales are more profitable. Madrid and three other regions started their winter sales yesterday. Many people in the Balearics, rather than waiting for the winter sales here, will be heading for the mainland to buy their presents before the start of the Three Kings. With the word recession on the tip of everybody's tongue, Balearic shopkeepers want to hear cash tills ringing loudly when the sales get underway. The local commercial associations never managed to discover why shop takings in Majorca were down over Christmas in 1999 and during last year's winter sales. The president of Afedeco (Small Shopkeepers Association), Pau Bellinfante, was lost for words after the annual analysis of the winter sales last year. The only explanations he could give for the overwhelming dissatisfaction of shopkeepers in Palma were the road works and the lack of parking. If that was the case, consumers will find little has changed this year. The results of the sales will give a clear indication to just how much people are tightening their belts after a year of interest rate hikes and rising fuel prices. These have had a negative effect on the Balearic economy which is forecast to start slowing during the first financial period of this year.