Mohammad A. Baker, Deputy Chairman and CEO of GMG
GMG, which owns Sun & Sand Sports, is working its base in the food retail and processing space too. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Dubai-based GMG - which owns and operates the Sun & Sand Sports stores - is making a run for the FMCG space too, by buying the supermarket chain Geant’s UAE operations. At the same time, GMG has also picked up the ‘exclusive rights’ to expand Geant operations in the Middle East. For GMG, the Geant store acquisition is part of a determined move to grow its base in the food retailing and processing business.

The UAE operations of Geant, of French origin and a competitor to Carrefour, was earlier part of Urban Foods’ portfolio. It had recently opened the biggest Geant store in the UAE, at the new Dubai Hills Mall.

Geant, part of Groupe Casino, has a turnover of 35 billion euros plus. Urban Foods is part of Dubai Holding’s diversified interests and had been operating 18 Giant locations in the UAE. Under the GMG stewardship, Geant will also bring in Groupe Casino’s other brands such as Franprix and Monoprix.

According to Mohammad A. Baker, Deputy Chairman and CEO of GMG,"This acquisition is a milestone in our history as we venture into the food retail category. In doing so, we are able to cover the entire consumer journey from food manufacturing and distributing to retail.”

The diverse portfolio of Groupe Casino’s supermarket brands will allow us to cater to all categories of consumers - from the price-conscious to those desiring more premium and speciality products.

- Mohammad A. Baker of GMG

It was last year that GMG signalled its intent to expand beyond its status as the region’s premier retailer of sports brands and equipment. Its retail presence includes some of the biggest standalone Nike stores in the region.

This meant focussing on four verticals - GMG Sports, GMG Food, GMG Health, and GMG Consumer Goods. The Geant store buy comes under the GMG Consumer Goods vertical, bringing its workforce to over 700 employees. (GMG also has its own food brands, Farm Fresh and Klassic, as well as distributes labels such as McCain, Mama Sita’s, and Shan.) “Our acquisition comes at a time when the Middle East’s food economy is undergoing a major transformation,” said Baker. “Consumer preference has shifted to locally-sourced food items and sustainable food options, while governments are simultaneously exploring ways to enhance food safety and promote food security in line with their national development visions. In the coming years, our intention is to cover the entire food consumption chain from farm-to-fork.”

Buying spree
The Geant deal comes after GMG’s 2020 acquisition of Royal Sporting House, a sports goods retailer with a heavy presence in Southeast Asia. More recently, Dubai-based GMG also bought the rights to manage, distribute, and retail the Nike brand in Egypt and Iraq, from the third quarter of this year.

Within the Middle East and Asia, GMG’s sports-focused retail presence extends to 400 stores.

Based on Euromonitor International's data, grocery retailing in the Middle East and Africa had been "underdeveloped, with its per capita value remaining below the global average". In the last five years, though, there has been substantial growth potential, "with MEA set to become the fastest-growing region globally".