GMG Sports' SVP on the company's expansion and new in-store offerings
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GMG Sports Retail’s Simon Smith on the company’s expansion and new in-store offerings

GMG Sports Retail’s Simon Smith on the company’s expansion and new in-store offerings

GMG Sports’ senior vice president – Retail, tells Gulf Business about the brand’s entry into Southeast Asia and Egypt

Zubina Ahmed
Simon Smith, senior vice president of GMG Sports Retail

Tell us how Sun & Sand Sports has evolved in the last few years in the region.
Over the last five years, Sun & Sand Sports has gone through a significant evolution as a brand to become the Middle East’s largest sports retailer. This evolution began with the conceptualisation, transition, and expansion of the brand as you see today in leading malls across the UAE.

We have a growth mindset, and we have recently increased our footprint in strategic markets like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, and Iraq. We did this while ensuring a strong focus on our end-consumer and delivering a consistent shopping experience. Recently, we also launched a Sun & Sand sports store in the Dubai Mall which is spread across 870 square metres space and features sections for men, women, kids water-sports, fitness, yoga and accessories

Could you tell us more about these expansion plans?
We see potential in every market we operate in. A renewed focus on personal well-being is a trend we are seeing across all geographies – be it Southeast Asia or Egypt. Over the course of the next 12 months, we are looking at opening another 10 more stores across the MENA region.

The expansion of GMG’s Nike distribution contract in Egypt and Iraq marks a new chapter of growth for the 40-year long partnership between the two companies. We first signed an agreement with Nike in 1982 to bring its high-quality products to more Arab consumers. Starting in 2010, we have been distributing Nike products across the GCC region.

As far as Asia is concerned, at the end of 2020, when business sentiment was low and markets were down, we saw an opportunity and took a bold step by entering Asia through the acquisition of the popular Royal Sporting House brand. Then and now, Asia exemplifies immense potential and growth opportunities for GMG. Asian consumers offer a $10tn growth opportunity according to McKinsey & Co. This is why we’re excited about expanding our presence in Singapore and Malaysia through the acquisition of Nike stores from SUTL.

How are your stores constantly looking to elevate their customers’ shopping experiences?
With a new generation on the rise, we are constantly pushing the boundaries to develop innovative experiences. We are always looking for new and creative solutions to improve our consumer shopping experience.

Over the last few years, apart from elevating our store concepts, we have invested in building better tech to improve our footwear shopping experience. This helped us improve our back-store management and reduce the time taken to serve customers. As a result, we have seen our footwear contribution reach a record high compared to previous years. We are also in the process of building automation in shop floor refills to ensure product availability at all times.

Give us some insight on how technology drives great in-store shopping experiences?
As we speak, we are going through a major transformation phase around multiple aspects of our business. To name a few, we are working towards delivering a seamless omnichannel experience to our customers. To enable that, we are revamping our supply chain model and building an infrastructure to support our five-year growth plans. We are also further elevating our data and analytics to get more efficient as we move forward.

Building our tech infrastructure has a significant role in the successful implementation of all these projects. Investing in these areas is critical for any retail business moving forward.

Can you share details about your performance, growth and milestones over the last few years? 
We have built our focus on expanding our footprint into strategic markets like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and most recently, Egypt and Iraq. From a product perspective, we have continued to build our emphasis on full-price sell-through, increasing footwear contribution, and strengthening our core never-out-of-stock business. We have also continued to evolve our e-commerce business and we almost doubled our sales growth versus last year. Additionally, we have brought a lot of efficiencies in our back-end operations to improve the availability of our products to serve our customers better.

Read: UAE retailer GMG to open more than 100 stores in Egypt by 2026

Can you comment on UAE’s retail ecosystem and what trends do you foresee, shaping the future of apparel shopping?
The UAE’s retail sector has recorded positive gains in recent quarters. Combined with strong public-private collaboration on industry reforms, the UAE was actually positioned 14th globally in Kearney’s latest Global Retail Development Index. The current sportswear market size in UAE is Dhs6.1bn and is expected to grow to Dhs 6.9bn with a 3.8 per cent CAGR growth by 2025, according to Euromonitor.

We see immense potential in this segment, which reflects in our performance and growth plans. Post pandemic, the consumers have a renewed focus on health and well-being, so we foresee that the performance and sportswear apparel and footwear divisions will have a higher growth rate than the fashion segment. We also anticipate that the difference between performance and lifestyle wear will blur, and sports-inspired clothing will be adopted within a broader range of customers.

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