Somerfield has pulled the plug on its Market Fresh and Essentials formats and wound up its franchising ­trials as its newly bedded-in management states its ambition to become the "local grocery store" of choice.

It will also go all out to tailor its offer more towards the over-50s, after a massive survey of 40,000 shoppers revealed the older age group as its core market.

Speaking to The Grocer this week, chief executive Paul Mason outlined what a "confused" business he had taken on when he joined the company in March and how he intended to focus on the older demographic to better serve its shoppers.

Somerfield's biggest research project ever undertaken revealed that 65% of its shoppers were over 50 and their children had moved out - a contrast to the core audiences of mums and families targeted by Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda.

Mason said: "We're trying to link the operational efficiencies of Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury's with the community credentials of the Co-op we once had. We intend to play an active part in our local communities. We're creating better, brighter, clearer and easier places to shop."

As well as the name on many stores reverting to just Somerfield, the brand names inside the store are also changing. Many will be disappearing as an extensive range review across ambient has resulted in it slashing the SKUs in its average store from 14,000 to 7,000.

After ambient, the company will take on fresh.

Its own-label ranges are all being rebranded, while a massive remerchandising exercise will mean products are better laid out throughout the store.

This, along with improvements to its fixtures and fittings, is expected to cost the chain £20m to £25m in the run-up to Christmas. Somerfield's testing of the franchising water was now a dead duck, added Mason. "Somerfield has had more trials than the Old Bailey. Do I see franchising as something to explore? No."

Although the Market Fresh and Essentials formats had been Somerfield's most high-profile initiatives of recent years, Mason said they were a waste of money.

"Money was being spent on embellishments. These sub-brands will eventually fall away over time."

The Market Fresh format featured expensive wooden interiors and unnecessary stainless steel ventilation in the raised ceilings, he said.

But he remained committed to the retailer's forecourt business, which was going through its own redevelopment programme. The forecourts were a stage behind the rest of the estate, but three stores were undergoing the first trials of new ranges and merchandising.

Somerfield's turnover dipped about 20% after selling Kwik Save. This year sales will be £4bn with operating profit up 50%, said Mason.