The departure of a major high street retailer from Dorchester will be a 'massive loss'.

Trader Sandra Jordan, who organised a petition in a bid to keep Marks & Spencer in the town, spoke after the company confirmed this week it would be pulling out.

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

The company confirmed on Thursday that the store will close in February next year. A spokesman said that all employees at the store will be offered 'redeployment'.

Since the initial announcement of the plans, Dorchester residents have been campaigning to save the store.

A petition showing support for the store attracted more than 5,000 signatures, and a peaceful protest was held last week to further demonstrate opposition to the plans. A further paper petition for people who could not sign online received more than 500 signatures.

Sandra Jordan of Jordans Jewellers, who started the petition, said: "I am still having customers come in every day not understanding why it is happening. I think the whole town will be very disappointed with the decision. It will be a massive loss to the town.

"I am very disappointed with the decision. It is a business decision and we have to respect that."

She added: "We hope that if the right building or premises came up in the future that they would consider coming back. We wanted to show the store that they are well respected and loved. The feeling of the town was very strong."

Phil Gordon, project director of the Dorchester BID, said: "I would like to think that we could keep the doors open with M&S to discuss some future prospects. Perhaps they could come back. I think it is disappointing, and I understand why."

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, where customers can also pick up Clothing & Home products in store via Click & Collect."