DETECTIVES are investigating whether a series of armed robberies across the Fylde coast could be linked.
In the latest raid, two masked men armed with an axe and a screwdriver threatened three customers and staff at the Co-op store on Chain Lane, Staining.
A 16-year-old female customer was forced to the floor by two men before staff managed to lock her in a back room for her safety where she was able to call police.
The men, who struck around 9.40pm on Thursday, escaped with several hundred pounds in cash and packets of cigarettes.
They are described as white, in their early 20s and had their faces covered with scarves.
Police, who have made door to door inquiries and are trawling through CCTV images, are now appealing for anyone with information to come forward.
Det Sgt Jane Atkinson, from Blackpool CID, said: “Fortunately nobody was seriously injured during this robbery but the offenders were very forceful and threatening in their behaviour and left both the staff and customers incredibly shaken.
“A full investigation is underway and we are looking into the possibility that this offence could be linked to similar incidents across the Fylde in recent months.
“I can’t say whether it’s the same people. We will look at other offences in the area to see if there are any links.”
There have been at least nine robberies in local shops in the past few months.
Just six days ago staff were threatened by two thugs armed with a hammer in the One Stop on Rossendale Avenue, Thornton.
Terrified staff were held up by masked raiders after they burst into B&M Bargains on Highﬁeld Road in South Shore armed with a crow bar on Monday January 24.
Just days earlier on Tuesday January 18 a knife-wielding raider walked into William Hill on Waterloo Road, South Shore.
Police are now offering advice on how shopkeepers can stay safe.
Det Sgt Atkinson added: “Make sure CCTV is operating. Be vigilant of people coming in and out of the shop and acting suspiciously.
“Similarly, if there are suspicious vehicles outside the shop, mark down the registration number and report it to the police.
“Don’t challenge anyone. Lock the shop up and call the police as soon as you can.”
A spokesman for The Co-operative said: “Three customers and two members of staff were in the store at the time of the raid. They were badly shaken but unhurt.
“CCTV footage has been given to the police who are investigating the incident, and we would appeal for anyone with information to come forward.”