A pistol-wielding robber stole money and cigarettes from a Waihi diary today as the terrified shopkeepers cowered on the floor.

Police say a solidly built man, described as Maori or Polynesian, burst into the Kensington Ave diary in the North Island town at 12.50pm "with what appeared to be a pistol".

The robber, who wore a hat and had a scarf wrapped over his mouth, made the victims lie on the floor as he stole cash and cigarettes.

He didn't immediately draw the pistol, police say, in an incident that left the shopkeepers shaken but uninjured.

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After collecting his loot, the robber escaped on foot along Parry Palm Ave, the town's main street, towards Paeroa.

Police are appealing for witnesses.

Anyone with information can call Detective Sergeant Jason Perry of Waihi CIB on 07 863 8179, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.