Confidence among small businesses reached an eight-year low this month, according to a new survey.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Small Business Index (SBI) was negative for a sixth straight quarter, reaching its lowest point since the last recession.
The confidence index now stands at -21.6.
The survey, which was conducted at the beginning of the month, showed that 46 per cent of small firms expected their performance to worsen over the next three months.
Just 24 per cent said they expected performance to improve.
Confidence is particularly low among retailers, with two-thirds expecting their businesses performance to decrease over three months.
The survey also found that the amount of small businesses that reported declining profits, 42 per cent, had reached a five-year high.
The domestic economy was given as the biggest reason for the lack of business confidence by business owners.
FSB director of external affairs and Advocacy Craig Beaumont said he hoped there would be a turnaround in the new year after the election gave the business community Brexit certainty.
“The small business community has been stifled by uncertainty for more than three years,” he said.
“This quarter, the added uncertainty that accompanies a general election made it even harder for small firms to plan, hire and increase profits.
“They say that the night is darkest before the dawn, and small firms will be hoping that the old adage holds true.
“The incoming government has made some very positive commitments to the small business community – particularly where connectivity, employment costs, business rates and late payments are concerned – it now needs to deliver.”