HORRIFIED salon owners arrived for work to find thieves had stolen part of their front pavement.

The Image hair and beauty salon believes it was targeted on Tuesday night when five York stone flags were lifted and taken from outside the business in busy Lee Lane, Horwich.

It is the second blow sisters Louise Fitton and Rachel Thorpe have suffered this year — in January they had to shut for two days after burglars smashed their way in and ransacked the shop.

The thieves had removed slates from the roof and kicked a hole in the ceiling before searching the property and stealing equipment and stock.

"We had just got all that sorted out. We spent thousands to make it safe again and then thieves take on the outside," said Mrs Fitton.

"It beggars belief that someone could steal the pavement on a busy road."

When staff locked up the salon at 3.30pm on Monday the flags were still in place, but when they returned on Wednesday morning at 8.50am they noticed the gaping holes in the paving.

There was a trail of mud leading from the paved area to beside the road, where they believe the brazen thieves loaded the heavy stone slaps into a van.

But they think they may have been disturbed as a glove was found nearby and several slabs were not removed.

While the salon remains open, Mrs Fitton is concerned about the safety of clients, particularly pensioners who visit on senior citizens' Wednesdays.

She said: "At the moment we are going outside when clients are coming to tell them to be careful. We have to make sure they are safe getting in. We don't want anyone coming a cropper."

Refurbishment at the salon has just been completed and staff were getting ready for the busy Christmas period.

"This has really knocked our confidence," said Mrs Fitton.

The latest theft has been reported to police and staff hope someone may have spotted the thieves and will be able to help catch them.