A "chubby" thief dropped five-dollar notes all over the floor as he made off on foot after robbing Brighton's dairy armed with a screwdriver.

Sharif Steel, 16, who lives out the back of the store with his mother, who owns it, told the Otago Daily Times the robbery at 6.50 last night left them and the woman working in the shop in shock.

The shopkeeper was in tears when she went to the back of the shop, where Sharif and his mother were at the time of the robbery, after the thief left the store.

The man, who Sharif described as being a "pretty chubby'' Maori aged in his 30s or 40s, entered the store armed with a screwdriver.

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He had a red bandanna covering his face and was wearing glasses and an NBA cap.

"The shop worker said 'how are you' and he said 'yeah, good' and pulled a screwdriver on her ... and asked for all the money.''

Sharif estimated the thief left the store with between $200 and $300.

"He didn't take everything. He sort of hesitated a bit and he dropped quite a lot of five-dollar notes.''

There had been other thefts in Brighton lately - a note was posted in the store window warning people about a thief in the township.

Sharif believed the robbery might be linked to the previous incidents, which included the theft of a wood trailer.

"Sooner or later [a robbery at the store] was going to happen, because everything is getting pretty dodgy lately.''

There was a heavy police presence in Brighton immediately after the robbery, including a police dog and at least three patrol cars.

A police spokeswoman confirmed they had attended the robbery, where a man dressed in dark clothing threatened a shop keeper with a weapon.

• Dunedin police (03) 471 4800, Crimestoppers 0800 555 111.