SHAW'S, STOP & SHOP STEP UP BATTLE OVER SUPERSTORE SITES

BOSTON -- Stop & Shop Cos. here and Shaw's Supermarkets, East Bridgewater, Mass., are facing off on more real estate battles as the availability of urban locations declines.The New England chains are maneuvering to halt development of each other's superstores in areas where one chain already operates units or where both want to set up shop.Mansfield, Mass., is the latest battleground. In this southeastern

BOSTON -- Stop & Shop Cos. here and Shaw's Supermarkets, East Bridgewater, Mass., are facing off on more real estate battles as the availability of urban locations declines.

The New England chains are maneuvering to halt development of each other's superstores in areas where one chain already operates units or where both want to set up shop.

Mansfield, Mass., is the latest battleground. In this southeastern Massachusetts town, both Stop & Shop, the larger chain with 123 corporate stores, and Shaw's, with 87 stores, have secured building sites for new superstores. Shaw's was instrumental in helping a real estate trust buy a house next to the planned Stop & Shop site. The trust then appealed the Stop & Shop building permits. The appeal has delayed the project for several months and cost Stop & Shop thousands of dollars.

In response, Stop & Shop bought land next to the proposed site for Shaw's superstore and appealed the permits that Shaw's was acquiring.

Work on both sites has been halted while legal questions are sorted out.

Shaw's and Stop & Shop have locked horns in several other Massachusetts communities.

In Plymouth, the chains have secured building sites right across the street from each other, Bernard Rogan, corporate public relations director for Shaw's, told SN. Although it has taken Shaw's six years to break ground there, Rogan said his chain will beat Stop & Shop by opening a store in November. Stop & Shop is still trying to obtain all the necessary permits.

Heightening the real estate battle between the two chains is the scarcity of available land near urban locations and the decisions of both companies to expand southward, Rogan said.

"It's part of the competition

that's out there," Rogan said. It's been relatively below the surface [until now]." A local news report several weeks ago helped drew attention to the feud, he added.

Mary-Jo Anderson, a Stop & Shop spokeswoman, would not discuss details of the chain's competition with Shaw's. She did acknowledge that Stop & Shop continues to look aggressively for new sites.

Anderson stressed prime location is crucial to the chain's store development since the average size of a new Stop & Shop superstore is about 65,000 square feet. "Real estate is the name of the game now," she said. "It's a major, major part of the business."

Sometimes, the company researches locations for years before seeking permits, Anderson added.