Joan Collins THE Balearics is a shoppers' paradise, with the third highest proportion of shops -- 17.31 for every 1'000 inhabitants, only outdone by Ceuta and Melilla, according to the Report on Commercial Distribution in Spain 2005. This report, published by the Secretariat of State for Tourism and Commerce and which was presented yesterday by the Secretary of State for Tourism and Commerce, Pedro Mejia, says that company growth in the commerce sector continued in 2005, although the combined sales of the big groups grew more than those of the smaller companies, with the big supermarkets leading the field. In fact, the sales of the large stores, grew by 3.2 percent in comparison with 1.3 percent in smaller concerns. Large supermarkets grew most, followed by supermarkets of medium size. On the other hand, traditional shops lost out, as did hypermarkets. After the start of last year, the commercial centres sector in Spain had 473 units, equivalent to 10.5 million square metres gross. In the hypermarket sector, the number was 347 with an area of 2.78 million square metres. The supermarket formula is the one which grew most, with 183 big supermarkets opening, 136 medium size and 224 self service shops. According to Mejia, the number of commercial centres in Spain has already exceeded the European average. This country (Spain) has 12.8 companies for every 1'000 inhabitants, while the 25 countries of the European Union have, on average, 7.1. As for the expectations for this year, a total of 17 hypermarkets will be opened, according to the Director General of Commercial Policy, Ignacio Cruz Roche. In general figures, the report reveals that commerce grew by 6.7 percent last year. The commercial sector continues to be very important with regard to its contribution to the creation of companies, especially small and medium sized ones. Specifically, in 2005, companies in the commercial sector formed 27.5 percent of the total active Spanish companies. Of all companies existing at the moment, some 10.5 percent were created last year.