More firms struggling to keep heads above water
A growing number of companies on both sides of the border have reported they are finding it difficult to keep going, according to a survey.
This week's InterTradeIreland Business Monitor Report said 18% of businesses were "struggling" - up from 12% on the same period a year before.
And only 2% of firms were making plans for Brexit.
However, 83% of companies were reporting stability or growth, although 50% said the cost of overheads was putting pressure on them.
Energy costs were a problem for 38% of respondents, and companies were either absorbing higher prices or passing them on to customers.
Micro-businesses were also finding it tougher to compete, with 20% reporting difficult conditions.
Overall, bigger firms with exporting ability were most likely to be growing, and confidence levels among growing companies was higher than the previous quarter.
Aidan Gough, director of strategy and policy at InterTradeIreland, said: "The results from the Q1 Business Monitor show the economy remains buoyant but operationally challenging, with many counter-balancing issues to deal with."
He added that InterTradeIreland support programmes could help firms develop opportunities in innovation and export, and also described companies' failure to make plans for leaving the EU as "concerning".
"Brexit is an issue that will affect business right across the island, so it is concerning that almost all of those surveyed have not started any forward planning," Mr Gough added.
"The intensely competitive environment may explain this, with firms more focused on facing the current challenges, in addition to the lack of information available on the various potential avenues of impact.
"Our message is simple. While we recognise the pressures facing small business owners dealing with the here and now, there is also, nevertheless, a window of opportunity that must be grasped to prepare for the challenges and, indeed, the opportunities presented by the new cross-border trading relationship set to emerge over the next few years."