By Humphrey Carter THE Balearic retail sector launched the mother of all winter sales yesterday and the response from consumers was better than expected. Last week the commercial sector expressed its concerns that the sales would prove to be a damp squib. But yesterday, albeit after a false start on the alarmingly empty high streets, all the retail associations reported busy trading, with more people and sales than the first day of the sales last year. Over the next two months, 45 million euros is expected to be spent in the sales, an average of 120 euros per person, based on yesterday's swift trading. The response from consumers was welcomed by the retail sector which had been holding its breath, eager to see if consumer confidence would return to the high street. All of the department stores and shopping centres, many of which have, for example slashed textile prices by over 50 percent, reported a hectic day's trading. Considering this was only the first day, shops should be getting busier over the coming weeks. However, this year's winter sales in the Balearics are aggressive with most retailers launching themselves into the sales period offering the kind of major discounts normally saved until towards the end of the official sales period in March. There were savings of 50, 60 and 70 percent all over the high street yesterday. The main shopping centres posted steady increases in trade in the third and fourth quarters of last year. It's hoped that the positive response from consumers and the sharp increase in sales and spending will serve to compensate for the shortfall in trade at the start of last year. In fact, the shopping centres hope to see winter sales trade eight percent up on last year. Department store El Cortes Ingles also hopes that the late surge in Christmas trade has spilt over into the New Year and is witnessed in the winter sales trade. Consumer associations warned last night that with such an aggressive winter sales period kicking off with huge savings, bargain hunters who decide to leave their shopping towards the end, hoping to get the best deals, could find themselves losing out. However, shoppers are advised to make sure that only product prices have been reduced and not the quality as well.