Competition, the cornerstone of the American free enterprise system, is alive and well in Utah.

If you don't think so, take a look at the advertis-ing blitz by ShopKo in recent days to acquaint Utah with its new stores in Sandy, Murray, Taylorsville, West Jordan, Layton, Ogden and Provo.Naturally, the company wants to acquaint Utahns with the new stores and their products and service, but the advertisements are also designed to let people know they will compete with the established companies.

The advertising in newspapers, radio and television has been a financial benefit to those media outlets and made more than one retailer sit up and take notice.

An example was the full-page Sears ads running in four Utah daily newspapers this week that invited people to take their ShopKo grand opening advertisements and Sears will beat "any advertised price on either identical or comparable items that we carry in stock." The offer is good through Sept. 17.

Karen Sloan, regional advertising manager for Sears, said the company won't be running any additional advertisements singling out ShopKo such as those that appeared in the Deseret News, Salt Lake Tribune, Provo Daily Herald and Ogden Standard-Examiner.

She said the coming Sears advertising program will be the same in Utah as in other areas of the country with no special emphasis on ShopKo's impact.

Sloan said Sears will have a strong fourth quarter advertising program beginning in mid-September and continuing to Dec. 31, but no future advertisements will deal with Shopko.

She said it is only natural to have a strong advertising program in the fourth quarter of the year (mainly because Christmas is the biggest retail period).

"We don't intend to ignore them (ShopKo), but our advertising program won't be geared to offset their emergence into the market," Sloan said. Any retail outlet is a competitor, she said, and you can't ignore the competition.

Robert Cutler, advertising manager for the Newspaper Agency Corp., the company handling the advertising, production and circulation for the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune, said he isn't aware of companies like Sears, Fred Meyer and K mart beefing up their advertising to offset ShopKo's new stores.

Cutler said he is certain retail stores are interested in what ShopKo is doing, but that is only natural because the established firms are always interested in the "new kid on the block."

He said much of the advertising coming from large chains like Sears, Fred Meyer and K mart is handled on a corporate basis and the trend is toward pre-printed supplements slipped into the daily newspapers, although some regular advertisements are purchased on the regular newspaper pages.

Chuck Peden, regional coordinator for Fred Meyer, said his company isn't altering its advertising policies just because Shopko came to Utah.

He said that two months ago the company had its pre-printed advertisements slipped into the Sunday newspaper rather than the Wednesday edition.

"We found that people have more time to read the newspaper on Sunday than the weekday editions. We also changed our television commercials from one 30-second spot to two 15-second spots talking about different products," Peden said. The company will continue to purchase newspaper advertisements during the week.

Peden said Fred Meyer has faced ShopKo before. "There always will be competition. We don't focus on the competition but focus on the customer. We want to try and keep our market share," he said.

He said ShopKo's people have been in Fred Meyer stores and Fred Meyer people have been in ShopKo stores checking on prices, but his company won't be undersold - the same promise given by ShopKo. Peden said Fred Meyer has the same no-hassle return policy offered by ShopKo.

Rob Boley, director of public relations for Fred Meyer's corporate headquarters in Portland, Ore., said his chain competes with many stores offering the same types of products. He said introduction of the new slogan "You'll find it at Freddy's" has been popular. "It only seems like we have increased our advertising because people are remembering the slogan," Boley said.