TWO weeks after the rest of the country, the summer sales finally started in the Balearics yesterday, although on Palma's main high street, Jaime III, it was just a normal shopping day. There was no mad rush for the bargains when stores opened for trading yesterday morning and the commercial sector hopes that business will pick up over the next few days, especially this weekend, the first weekend of the sales. As the morning dragged on some of Palma's main stores, including El Cortes Ingles, did see a pick up in trade and in some of the women's clothing shops, there were long queues for the fitting rooms and the cash tills so it was not all doom and gloom. However, the two week delay in the Balearics continues to work to the shops' disadvantage, Serious bargain hunters head for Madrid and Barcelona as soon as the sales start on July 1 where many shoppers claim that prices are much lower, sales or no sales. The problem at the moment is that consumer confidence has taken a knock in the Balearics, primarily because of the down turn in the tourist industry and high street stores have been struggling. In fact, some have been fined by the local authorities for having started offering summer discounts and special offers before the sales officially started in order to stimulate trade. For the past three years, as far as the majority of retailers are concerned, neither the winter nor summer sales have lived up to their expectations and many have adopted a wait-and-see approach to the sales, waiting to see how the public respond and if they are going to start spending money. Apart from reducing their prices, some stores have knocked up to 70 per cent of some items while others are offering two-for-the-price-of-one with average savings of around 50 per cent. To try and drum up extra business, a number of stores, in particular electrical retailers, are offering consumers the chance to buy now, but pay nothing for up to three months and then spread the payments over six months to a year. Since Christmas, retailers have noticed a marked reduction in consumer spending but hope that many people have been holding out for the summer bargains and that holidaymakers will also take time off from the beach to head to the sales.