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More than a sporting goods player. Dubai-headquartered GMG has bought Geant UAE and aswaaq back-to-back as it seeks to expand coverage in the supermarket and grocery verticals. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Dubai-headquartered GMG – known for being one of the world’s biggest Nike partners – is continuing to build up strength in the grocery space, acquiring 11 community malls and 22 supermarkets operated by aswaaq LLC from Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD).

The deal gives GMG clout in a key demographic, with aswaaq locations in Dubai heavily favoured by UAE Nationals. The plan, according to Mohammed A. Baker, Deputy Chairman and CEO of GMG, is to widen the shopper base for aswaaq through new locations, both in the UAE and overseas.

“aswaaq has a strong name, and ICD had done an amazing job with it,” said Baker. “As for GMG, we are an evolving company and when we buy something, it’s never bought and operated as is. We will do everything to enhance aswaaq.”

Around 700 staffers from aswaaq will also become part of GMG with the deal. (The value of the transaction has not been disclosed.)

GMG plans to enter new markets with aswaaq and widen its shopper base, according to Mohammed A. Baker (on the left), who is signing off on the deal with Khalifa Al Daboos, Deputy CEO of ICD. Image Credit: Supplied

The physical grocery and supermarket space has put in enough growth during these three years to hold its own against online buying of daily/weekly needs. Retailers have been offering more choices and emphasizing ‘customer experience’ to make visits to stores compelling.

We, at ICD, are very proud of all that has been achieved at aswaaq in the last 12 years. We believe that aswaaq and its employees will thrive and grow under the guidance of a diversified family-owned business with immense experience

- Khalifa Al Daboos, Deputy CEO, Investment Corporation of Dubai

Geant UAE buy

It was in April last year that GMG started on the supermarket acquisition, taking over stores operated by Geant UAE from Urban Foods. The deal also allows GMG to introduce new concepts – Franprix and Monoprix - from Group Casino, which owns Geant. Going forward, there will be new lines offered in premium organic produce and in cash-and-carry schemes.

UAE's consumer retail market is forecast to grow at nearly 6 per cent in the next five years and hit $37.70 billion by 2027. "We ventured into food retail last year as we want to cover the entire food consumption chain from farm-to-fork," said Baker. "By bringing aswaaq under the GMG portfolio, we are getting even closer to our communities

Kickstart the acquisition

It was late 2020 that GMG, which operates the successful Sun & Sans Sports stores, widen its retail ambition, buying the RSH network, a sporting goods brand with a presence in the Far East. Recently, the Dubai firm said it will be adding 100 stores in Southeast Asia locations, many through the RSH brand. (GMG now has an Asia-Pacific HQ in Malaysia.)


According to Baker, GMG will likely offer more omni-channel options to its customers ‘on our own. Currently, we do most of through (third-party) aggregators’.

“Omni-channel will be part of our journey - we are a hardcore retailer and we realise that the retail world has changed,” he added. “We will not split this journey between online and physical retail.”

Egypt ambitions

Apart from Southeast Asia, Egypt is the other big market where GMG is making a push through an accelerated store rollout program. “We have a good thing going in the GCC, but still have lots of things to do in Africa,” said Baker. “We will hit the 100-store mark by 2025 in Egypt. The way we are going, we could do that even earlier.”


GMG's workforce numbers across its group operations