THE loss of the Marks & Spencer store in Poole’s Dolphin Centre has been described as a “sign of the times”, but business chiefs remained positive about the town’s future.

It was revealed the M&S store would close in January after 50 years of trading, meaning Castlepoint’s shop would become the only department M&S store in Dorset.

Jacqui Rock, Poole BID manager, said she was “sad” to see M&S go, and it was a “sign of the times”.

She said: “We are disappointed they are leaving, obviously they are an institution. Having said that, there’s a lot going on in the Dolphin Centre.

“We have the Kingland experience and Gather. We are sad to see M&S go but it’s a sign of the times not restricted to Poole.

“Poole is a really exciting place to be. You are going to lose businesses but I am really positive about what Poole has to offer and hopefully people will see that too.”

Deputy leader of BCP Council and portfolio holder for regeneration, Cllr Phil Broadhead, said it was “disappointing”, but he was “excited” about the future of Poole.

He said: “Whilst it is disappointing news that M&S will be leaving, especially after such a long period on our high street here in Poole, we’re finding lately that often these closures present new opportunities.

“A few good examples include the recent renewal of the Debenhams building in Bournemouth as Bobby’s, the upstairs of the Dolphin Centre which now hosts a brilliant climbing centre and parkour venue, and former retail units elsewhere which now boast skate parks, restaurants and entertainment hubs. Our high streets are changing – often for the better.

“We’re working closely with L&G who own the Dolphin Centre on a whole host of plans for the regeneration of the centre of Poole, and I’m excited about what the future could bring.”

Blandford resident, Valerie Campbell, 81, was shopping in M&S on Wednesday. She said: “It’s such a huge unit, who knows who will buy it.

“A lot of people will be disappointed, especially when you look at the age range of people here.

“It’s a blow of Poole, it’s losing a lot of shops.”

One Wimborne resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said it was a “backwards step” and said she was “shocked” by the news.

She added: “It’s not what people want, especially people my age, we want to come in and see the clothes.”