BURGLARS stole a till and cigarettes from a store leaving more than £1,000 worth of damage to the business.

The offenders broke into The Top Shop in Sharples through the front door at about 10.30pm on Tuesday.

As well as damaging the door of the Belmont Road grocery store, they swiped a number of cigarette packets from the display case and wrenched the safe from the counter.

According to owners Ruth and Peter Kay, a loyal customer spotted the incident and phoned the police but the perpetrators were gone before officers arrived.

Mrs Kay, aged 42, said they believed either two or three people were involved in the incident.

She said: "We were so grateful because it was a short time after Peter had come home.

"At about half past, one of our loyal customers was banging on the front door telling us what happened.

"Thinking about how bad it could have been, we are very lucky to be OK.

"We have had incidents before of people stealing fruit and veg in the past but nothing as serious as this.

"It is frustrating because we are not a big company. We are a family-run business and we support lots of people in the community."

Mr Kay, aged 58, had seen footprints in the snow when he arrived at the scene that night and said it looked like they had gone around the back of the shop before breaking through the front door.

He said: "It is not an easy place to break into but we think they have gone around to the back of the shop first before going back to the front door.

"We now need a new front door and we obviously have to replace the till."

He added that with the door and till having to be replaced as well as the loss of the cigarettes and money, it could cost them more than £1,000.

The community has rallied around the owners of the shop, which currently employs 16 people.

Mrs Kay said: "We want to thank all of the community for their support. I think it is always about being vigilant and keeping an eye out for anything.

"I am amazed with how many people have got in touch with us to offer their support.

"We all need to stick together and support each other."

A spokesman from Greater Manchester Police said officers were called to the scene at around 10.50pm and confirmed burglars had broken in through the front door.

Crime scene investigators have combed the scene for clues and enquiries are ongoing.

Anyone with information should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.