Rodney Fitch, who founded a company that remains in the vanguard of the store design industry, has died after a return of the illness he had fought over the past 18 months.

Rodney Fitch founded Fitch, the company, in 1972, creating an enterprise that contributed to the evolution of what is now termed the ‘design industry’.

Listening to him talk - “Shopping is the purpose of life” was his catchphrase - was to understand why the discipline has become so central in retail.

He put the shopper at the heart of everything he did and was the reason why so many high street names beat a path to his door.

Tim Greenhalgh, the present chief creative officer and chairman of Fitch, worked closely with Rodney.

Greenhalgh says: “He was a creative visionary and one of the most charming men you could ever wish to meet.

“He was both irascible and unbelievably tolerant in equal measure. He loved designers, creating a culture for them that has endured over the years.

“He never saw what we do as just designing ‘pretty shops’. He really did believe in creating something better.”

Fitch was awarded a CBE in 1990 for his “influence on the British design Industry”, was a trustee of the Victoria and Albert Museum, an avid cricketer and fan of the US.

After spending a period of his career away from the company he founded, he rejoined in 2004 as chairman and instituted a renaissance at the firm.

Leaving once more in 2009, he divided his time between a role as professor of retail design at Delft University of Technology and private consultancy projects with a broad range of predominantly retail clients.

Callum Lumsden, founder and creative director at retail design company Lumsden Design, sums up the feelings of many: “Rodney was very special to me both personally as well as professionally. He invented retail design and was a hero, as well as an inspiration, to me and everybody who worked with him.”

Simon Threadkell, design and formats director at Tesco and a former creative director at Fitch, says: “As a man he was generous with time and friendship. A brave and irreverent force till the end. He will be truly missed.”

Professor Rodney Fitch CBE, retail designer, died October 20, 2014.