Hundreds of hungry bargain hunters will be queuing outside some of Palma's main stores tomorrow morning, hours before doors will be flung open to mark the start of the winter sales. While a minority of Balearic shoppers would have nipped over the mainland last week to catch the sales which started last Tuesday in Madrid and Valencia, traders hope that the majority have been able to endure the wait, unlike last summer when the summer sales started three weeks later than usual, and later than elsewhere in Spain, and were a financial disaster for the majority of shopkeepers. Sales over Christmas and New Year 1999-2000 fell mysteriously flat and a number of traders over the past few days have said that sales this festive period have been lower than anticipated. However, the commercial sector is hopeful that the winter sales will prove a success, boost sales and shopkeepers' confidence. The President of the Pimeco small shopkeepers association, Demetrio Peña, said yesterday by contrast to the slow sales over Christmas, we are hoping that the sales will finally provide the sector with a healthy balance of sales - but we are erring on the side of caution as we have a suspicion as to what is actually going to happen. Similar sentiments were echoed by the President of Afedeco, the association of commercial organisations, Pau Bellinfante. Sales over Christmas have been rather slack, but the expectations ahead of any sales period are always good, he said. The build-up, however, has been fraught with controversy, with some sections of the commercial sector, from small shopkeepers to the large hypermarkets, launching special Christmas offers and discount promotions in order to get a head start on the sales.