THE BRANCH of Marks & Spencer in Dorchester will close next year, the company has confirmed.

The Echo previously reported that Marks & Spencer had proposals to close its store on South Street in Dorchester, and was in discussion with 53 members of staff about the plan.

The company has now confirmed that the store will close in February next year.

Aaron Spicer, M&S Head of Region for the South Coast, said: "Shopping habits are changing and closing our Dorchester store is a difficult but necessary decision as part of our plans to reshape our estate and better serve our customers with fewer, more inspirational stores. We remain committed to local customers and will continue to serve them from our website and other stores in the area, including M&S Weymouth and our Foodhall in Blandford Forum, where customers can also pick up Clothing & Home products in store via Click & Collect."

A spokesman said that all employees at the store will be offered redeployment.

Dorchester residents have been campaigning to save the store.

A petition started by Sandra Jordan of Jordans Jewellers to show support for the store attracted more than 5,000 signatures, and a protest was later held to further demonstrate opposition to the plans.