New Balance's Stuart Henwood showcases the brand's regional growth
Now Reading
New Balance’s Stuart Henwood showcases the brand’s legacy, collabs and regional growth

New Balance’s Stuart Henwood showcases the brand’s legacy, collabs and regional growth

The general manager of New Balance MENA and India shares the factors driving the activewear brand’s growth in the Middle East and its growing appeal among regional customers

Neesha Salian
Interview with Stuart Henwood, head of New Balance MENA and India

New Balance, a brand synonymous with athletics since 1906, has carved a unique path in the world of sportswear and accessories. The brand’s success is evident – in 2023, it raked in a whopping $6.5bn in sales worldwide.

Furthermore, its trendsetting collaborations and focus on values have made the brand a global favourite.

Here, Stuart Henwood, regional GM MENA (Middle East and North Africa) and India at New Balance, talks about the company’s successful growth trajectory in the Middle East and why its appeal resonates with customers in the Middle East.

What inspired New Balance to expand its presence in the Middle East market?

The MENA region is a hugely exciting and diverse market that is increasingly setting cultural trends on a global level.

Since establishing our New Balance MENA subsidiary in Dubai in July 2019, we’ve been on an expansion journey across both the GCC and Africa.

We’ve seen strong growth including doubling sales at our flagship store in Dubai Mall from 2022 to 2023 and have opened owned and operated stores in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, with plans to launch two more across the UAE this year.

Our network of partner stores also continues to expand across Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt, and Morocco, reflecting our commitment to engaging with diverse communities across the region.

What are the core values that have made New Balance such a global icon? How has it endured and maintained its popularity?

Put simply it’s about maintaining our core principles no matter what we do ­­ ­‑ authenticity, innovation, and fearless commitment to quality craftsmanship. The brand has roots that go back to 1906 and we continue to maintain our focus on producing high-quality footwear and apparel, prioritising function and leading the way with trends. This commitment to quality has fostered trust and loyalty among our customers who value performance and durability.

By championing diverse athletes and supporting grassroots initiatives, we continue to work with a wide range of partners, stakeholders and communities who share our ethos of inclusivity and empowerment.

This has been demonstrated through our recent launch of our ‘Run Your Way’ campaign which aimed to create a global conversation celebrating movement of every type, by removing running stereotypes and promoting a more inclusive and positive view of running.

Tell us about some of the key partnerships that have made the brand so niche.

New Balance has a rich history of collaborating with both established brands and emerging talents across various industries. In the lifestyle space, recent examples include Teddy Santis, Aime Leon Dore, Ganni and Stone Island just to name a few.

Collaborations play a key role and have helped establish the brand within the fashion space but more importantly, it’s underpinned by extremely strong inline collections across footwear and apparel.

What specific strategies is New Balance implementing to resonate among consumers in the MENA region?

We’ve tailored our products to suit various lifestyles and fashion preferences across MENA, focusing on performance-driven footwear and apparel as well as lifestyle. We’ve also engaged in localised marketing by partnering with regional ambassadors and celebrities to authentically connect with customers.
Additionally, we’ve invested in immersive retail experiences including flagship stores and pop-up events.
These physical spaces not only serve as retail doors but also as hubs for community engagement and brand storytelling, fostering a sense of belonging and loyalty among consumers. This is best demonstrated by our brand-new retail concept ‘Uncommon Common’, which we have successfully launched in Dubai Hills and Yas Mall Abu Dhabi.

How does New Balance approach cultural nuances and preferences when designing and marketing its products?

We actively seek collaboration and partnerships with local artists, designers, and ambassadors to infuse authentic cultural elements into our products and campaigns. By working closely with individuals who have a deep understanding of the local culture such as Amy Roko and Ascia, for example, we create narratives that resonate with consumers on a personal and emotional level.

Additionally, as a wholly inclusive brand, New Balance looks to embrace all the different cultures, lifestyles and traditions that are celebrated within the MENA, while adopting a globalised approach. The importance of our global athletes and ambassadors is key to how we then filter down to a local level and where sport and culture intersect.

Give us insights into the current trends and demands in the global and regional athletic footwear and apparel market.

The global and regional athletic footwear and apparel market is witnessing several key trends and demands. There’s a growing preference for versatile athleisure wear that blends performance features with everyday style. Partnering with communities and influencers is generating excitement and reaching new audiences. Health and wellness specifically movement-related activities are also driving demand for products that support active lifestyles.

Moreover, brands are focusing on localisation and cultural relevance, tailoring offerings to meet regional preferences and participating in local events. Overall,
these trends highlight the evolving nature of the market, with brands needing to adapt to meet the diverse needs of consumers worldwide.

What role does innovation play in driving New Balance’s growth in the region?

The Middle East is a unique and dynamic region, with new trends and innovations constantly occurring in various industries. New Balance understands this and adapts accordingly with its innovative products and campaigns that are imperative to grow and succeed in the region. The Uncommon Common retail concepts, for example, at Yas Mall and Dubai Hills Mall are thoughtfully and innovatively designed to blend shopping with shared experiences, encouraging people to come together, celebrate movement, and forge connections in a community environment.

Tell us about the partnerships that New Balance has forged in the Middle East region to enhance its brand presence.

Our partnerships in the MENA region play a vital role in enhancing New Balance’s presence, building relationships with customers, and driving growth in key markets.
One of many notable partnerships is with Amy Roko, signed officially in 2023. Born and raised in Saudi Arabia, Amy Roko made waves in the entertainment industry, starting on Vine and later becoming the first Saudi female rapper. Her advocacy for gender equality and female representation resonates with New Balance’s values of fearless independence and authentic self-expression. Amy Roko’s journey embodies the spirit of determination, reflecting New Balance’s commitment to individuality and self-expression. On the performance side, our work with key sports marketing assets such as Al Sadd, Up and Running, Ultimate Athletics and New Balance Run Club (NBRC) have helped put the brand on the map by engaging in a way that highlights the authenticity of the movement space.

How does the brand plan to engage with the local community and contribute to an active lifestyle culture across MENA?

We do so through several community running events and pop-ups, fostering a strong sense of togetherness. We recently hosted the ‘Run your way’ pop-up in Dubai, where we welcomed more than 1,500 people throughout the week for daily runs that encourage a more active lifestyle.

We also strive to engage with local communities through meaningful initiatives and events that reflect our commitment to social responsibility and cultural appreciation. One example is the NBRC, a running community offering free group runs. NBRC currently operates in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and most recently in Doha, Qatar.

You might also like


Scroll To Top