DORCHESTER retailers have recognised the value of working together to have a stronger voice.

The first-ever Chamber of Commerce Retailers Forum in the town saw traders come together to discuss how they can work together in the future and share their concerns.

One of the main issues raised was the uncertainty over the second phase of the town centre Charles Street development and the impact it could have on some retailers.

The traders initially heard from Mandy Payne from Retail Resource Dorset, who is also president of the Bournemouth Chamber of Commerce, on what her organisation could offer businesses in the town to help them build on their success.

She said she offered a support structure for retailers that can help with things like training, town promotion and mentoring.

One of the main areas several traders said they could do with further training and support in was a social media strategy.

Mrs Payne said it was also important to give Dorchester a voice and to celebrate the successes of the town and its businesses.

She said: “Dorchester has been a real jewel in the county, especially in the economic downturn.”

Mrs Payne said working together could now help retailers build on that success.

She said: “Coming together as a forum helps us understand each other and who we are but also look forward to the future and where we want to go.”

When the floor was opened up, Shaun Samways from the Potting Shed in the Hardye Arcade was among those to raise the issue of Charles Street.

He said the lack of clarity over when – or even if – the second phase of the scheme was going to begin was creating major uncertainty for his business, especially as the construction phase could cause several years of limited parking in Charles Street and have a knock-on effect on footfall.

Mr Samways said: “If we had a timescale we would know what’s going on, it’s the fear of the unknown.

“How can we run a business without any kind of timescale?”

David Upshall from the Chamber executive, who came up with the forum, said that the group would offer a platform to bring decision-makers such as council chiefs and the local MP in and ask questions of them.

He said: “What we need to do if you want your questions answered is we have got to get the people who can answer those to these meetings.”

Other issues raised by traders including the appearance of empty shops and the need to embrace the history of the town.