The concept of community will be at the heart of the successful store designs of the future, the World Retail Congress heard this morning.

In a debate on store design trends, Fitch chief creative director Tim Greenhalgh said shoppers are looking for places where “you can go and feel comfortable, rather than just somewhere you go to shop.”

Paul Lechleiter, chief executive of US based FRCH Design Worldwide, concurred. “People want to belong to something bigger,” he said. “A sense of community can guide people and create an identity.”

Lechleiter highlighted how US retailers are focusing on connecting their brand with their customers. He identified social consciousness, the provision of style for less and adventure and thrill as three of the key themes in the market.

Greenhalgh explained how a new generation of consumers are looking towards what he called generous brands that give something back to shoppers and to the wider community.

He believes that grocery retailing of the future would be defined by “rituals”, most notably what he called “the ritual of bringing food alive” through how it is merchandised in store.