Many of the UK's small and medium-sized firms are not expecting busy trading over Christmas, a report has said.
Almost half of the 500 firms surveyed expect the festive season to be "difficult" as consumers limit their spending, said insurer Aviva.
A further one in 10 respondents predicted that this Christmas could "make or break" their business.
In addition, fewer than one in five firms said they expected strong sales in the coming weeks.
David Bruce, commercial product manager at Aviva, said: "Christmas is a crucial trading period, even more so with the VAT rise [on 1 January] and government austerity measures hanging over consumer spending for the year ahead.
"The UK's small businesses are a resilient community but it looks as though the coming months will test them to the limit."