IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Zebra Technologies-IHL Group Study Reveals Retail Industry Sales to Grow Three Percent Annually Through 2021

Zebra Technologies Corporation, the market leader in rugged mobile computers, barcode scanners and barcode printers enhanced with software and services to enable real-time enterprise visibility, revealed the results of its 2017 Retail Transformation Study, a body of research examining the current and future retail marketplace in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). The study, conducted with IHL Group, a global research and advisory firm for the retail and hospitality industries, highlights the transformation of the retail sector as the model evolves to better serve consumers. IHL projects retail industry sales to rise three percent annually through 2021 led by a shift to greater ecommerce/omnichannel sales volume. Zebra’s customers are also investing more in technology and growing faster than the industry average.


  • IHL projects the North American and EMEA retail markets to each grow approximately three percent over the next five years to $5.5 trillion and €4.4 trillion in sales respectively. Ecommerce is projected to eclipse $1.5 trillion by 2021.
  • 2017 saw more retail store openings than closures and store openings are expected to outpace closures through 2021. IHL research estimates that the enterprise retail market (more than 50 stores) had 4,080 net stores opening through October 2017. In fact, 42 percent of retailers had a net increase in stores while only 15 percent had a net decrease.
  • IHL projects technology spending among retailers to rise approximately three percent over the next three years as retailers continue to evolve their operations to support unified commerce and provide a modern, engaging customer experience for today’s savvy, empowered shoppers.
    • Mobility is a driver for most surveyed retailers who plan to invest in mobile barcode or thermal printers, handheld barcode scanners and mobile computers within the next three years.
  • Zebra’s customers are retail leaders and growing faster, prioritizing key technologies and spending more on information technology (IT) than the broader market to make the shopping experience more convenient and drive operational productivity.
    • Retail leaders are investing two-to-three times more than the average retailer in IT transformation and associate training and tools. They are also more focused on increasing inventory visibility and lowering supply chain costs.
    • In the Department Store/Specialty Store/Mass Merchant segment, retailers that are growing their business with Zebra are reporting 64 percent higher revenue growth, 135 percent higher store growth, 33 percent more store remodels and 53 percent more enterprise IT spend than the surveyed industry average.
    • In the Grocery, Convenience Store, Pharmacy and Supercenter retail segments, Zebra customers are increasing their IT spend at a rate 232 percent higher than the surveyed industry average while growing stores at a rate 60 percent higher and remodeling stores at a 22 percent higher rate.
  • Store and fulfillment operations are transforming dramatically to adapt to evolving retail models. Among surveyed North American retailers expecting growth of more than five percent, 60 percent cited faster sales growth as a key driver for changes in store operations while 52 percent cited the shift in sales to online purchases. Interestingly, 52 percent identified same-day delivery as a key warehouse operations driver as consumer demand is encouraging retailers to improve the in-store returns process and enhance their fulfillment and delivery strategies.


  • In coordination with the IHL Group and Peerless Insights, a custom research agency, Zebra’s Retail Transformation study included detailed interviews with leading retailers, 400 online surveys and an additional study of 1,800 publicly- and privately-held retailers across 9 retail segments.
  • The interviews and surveys were conducted between July and October 2017.
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