Three men wielding firearms and a knife threatened workers in a Whangarei liquor shop before fleeing with a substantial amount of cash and cigarettes.

The Whangarei Liquor Centre on Maunu Rd was targeted on Wednesday evening for the third time in the past four years and shop assistants who were threatened were yesterday reeling from the traumatic experience.

One employee who did not want to be identified said all three robbers wore balaclavas and entered the premises one after the other.

"The first guy had a gun which he pointed at me while at the same time moved the gun around the other two workers here," he recalled.

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"The second man entered with a pistol and he was yelling 'Oh give us everything' and the third man didn't say anything but he had a very sharp knife and he came behind the counter.

When he entered and their scary looks, we knew they were after money so we emptied two tills and gave them all the money we had and then they demanded cigarettes which we handed over to them as well."

The shop assistant said the three carried a black bag and a rubbish bag used to put cigarettes in.

The ordeal lasted one minute and 15 seconds, according to CCTV footage which has been handed over to police.

All three ran towards First Ave through an alleyway beside the shop.

The shop owners employed a security officer after the first two robberies but they have not had one for more than two years.

They will now lock the shop after dark when customers are not inside.