A buzz round Palma yesterday with euro launch.

The first day of official trading with the new currency was not all plain sailing in the Balearics. While small shopkeepers had to bare the brunt of Tuesday's euro novelty factor, there were complaints from the Balearics two principal commercial associations yesterday. In stores across the region confusion and frustration was rife on both sides of the counter. Both the Federation of Small to Medium Shopkeepers (Pimeco) and the Federation of Balearic Commercial Traders (Afedeco) complained about the large queues in banks across the region which caused a large number of shopkeepers great problems in their quest for euro change. President of Pimeco Demetrio Peña and Afedeco boss Pau Bellinfante said that a large number of their members lost a great deal of time stuck in bank queues and that in some cases, trading came to a stand still as shops ran out of euro coins and notes. However, both admitted that “on the whole” the first working day with the euro in circulation passed off “as normal.” But, both spoke of their surprise at the apparent lack of preparation and organisation on behalf of some of the banks. The avalanche in demand for euros, not only from the eager general public, but also from the shops appeared to have been far greater than anticipated. Demetrio Peña, whose federation represents 50 per cent of the commercial sector admitted that some of its members were confused by the new currency and the dual-currency trading, “but as there are still plenty of pesetas in circulation and being used” there have been few over-the-counter problems. Although, when it comes to paying, the process is taking longer with both consumers and shop staff obviously unaccustomed to the new currency and the exchange rates. But Demetrio Peña said that he hopes the banks will withdraw the peseta from circulation as quickly as possible so that come the February 28 deadline, everybody is well used to the new currency and the peseta is long forgotten. Once all the region's shops are stocking euros and in a position to provide change in the new currency for all sales, the peseta's shelf life will start running out rapidly. Some economists claim that the peseta could be out of circulation within two weeks. For Pau Bellinfante, the big test will come in the sales which start on Monday. He believes that the performance of the euro during the sales will be the best indication as to how the Balearics is getting used to the new currency. Airport exchange offices were busy yesterday as millions of visitors were keen to buy euros and airport authority AENA said that no problems had been reported.


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