GMG is a global well-being company retailing, distributing and manufacturing a portfolio of leading international and home-grown brands across the sport, food and health sectors. Here, RLI sits down with Mohammad A. Baker, Deputy Chairman and CEO to learn more about this unique company and what their plans are moving forward.
Starting life in 1977 as a single butcher’s shop, GMG is today considered one of the Middle East’s leading family-owned retail conglomerates with an expanding global presence and 7,000 employees in 12 countries across the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.
The company operates under five main divisions – GMG Sports, GMG Health, GMG Food, GMG Consumer Goods and GMG Ventures. Under its GMG Sports banner, they inspire and empower their community through authentic, high-quality sports gear from the world’s leading brands. Through the GMG Food division, they add value to the UAE’s economy by producing locally and supplying their customers with fresh and nutritious food. Its Consumer Goods division distributes popular home-grown food brands and oversees the operations of the supermarket Géant in the UAE. GMG Health delivers a holistic approach to supporting consumer’s well-being through nutrition, pharmacare, vitamins, supplements and more, and through GMG Ventures the company operates four home-grown brands in education, logistics, outdoor living and real estate.
“Despite our legacy as one of the UAE’s oldest family-owned businesses, GMG still operates with a start-up mentality,” explains Mohammad A. Baker, Deputy Chairman and CEO. “For example, at the end of 2020, when business sentiment was at its lowest, we took the bold step of acquiring a popular Asia retailer, Royal Sporting House, and expanding into Asia.”
Meanwhile in 2021, the company expanded its Nike partnership to Iraq and Egypt, increased their investment in KSA and scaled some of their verticals. As for this year, they announced a partnership with the international lifestyle brand New Era to become its official distributor across the GCC, Iraq and Egypt and in April, they acquired Nike-only stores from the sports retailing arm of SUTL Corporation in Singapore and Malaysia.
“At GMG, we have introduced more than 120 brands into our markets, including Nike, Columbia, Under Armour, Timberland, Vans, Mama Sita’s and McCain amongst many others. We have also conceptualised 13 owned brands and notable ones include Sun & Sand Sports, Dropkick, Supercare Pharmacy, Farm Fresh and Klassic. Currently, we operate over 550 retail outlets in 57 cities,” Baker highlights.
Recent openings across their portfolio include the Middle East’s first Air Jordan concept store in the Dubai Mall, which was a new concept by Nike, and it included unique artwork commissioned by famed artists such as Syrian-American artist Jason Seife. They also launched M-A-D last year, which recognises the rise of a more environmentally conscious consumer and offers the most innovative, on-trend, eco-conscious sports and streetwear fashion. Finally, they have unveiled a new concept of their popular Sun & Sand Sports brand at the Dubai Mall that caters specifically to Gen Z consumers.
Fundamentally a growth company with long-term global ambitions, GMG’s ambition moving forward is reflected by its ongoing journey to expand their portfolio, as well as doubling their global workforce by 2025 across their operational regions.
“We will continue to build on our solid 45-year legacy as a consumer-centric trusted partner for growth and innovation. Our partners are proud to work with us because they know that while our accomplishments speak for themselves, we will never be complacent about them,” says Baker. “One of our key values is to keep evolving. We believe we must constantly challenge ourselves to meet the ever-changing consumer demands. To do so, we must be the change we wish to see and inspire our partners and communities to do the same. Along the way, I believe that we will always consider ourselves as a large start-up and come together as one family, digging in together to win no matter how large we become. It follows that we must care passionately about our people and the communities we serve – putting our people and our consumers first.”
When discussing the future of retail and customer engagement, Baker highlights that throughout everything in the last couple of years, retailers need to remember that customers today have access to thousands of brands locally and internationally. He goes on to say that building and rewarding customer loyalty must be an intrinsic part of being a retailer, because today they need to earn customers’ loyalty and trust every step of the journey. Baker and GMG strongly believe that loyalty goes beyond products and services and that it is about creating a solid emotional connection with customers – one in which they feel seen and heard and one that it is all about hyper-personalisation, which invariably helps contribute to customer loyalty and retention.
The platform of social media is something that simply cannot be ignored by retailers, and GMG believe firmly in harnessing the power this medium possesses. They have fully embraced social media marketing, whether at a corporate or a brand level. Their astute investment in social media has definitely uplifted their in-store and online sales, helped build relationships with their customers, and supported the brand in keeping it front of mind for existing and new consumers and partners.
Along with social media, GMG recognises the vital need to prioritise sustainability as a responsible corporate company. They hold themselves accountable for their own impact and as such, they are constantly working towards becoming a more sustainable business, from their logistics, operations and partners, to how they can inspire and innovate for their consumers, their community and their environment.
GMG is a business with a ‘Born to Win’ attitude who are self-starters, constantly challenging the status quo to deliver better products and experiences that change lives every day.
As for the future, Baker sees potential in every market they operate in. “A renewed focus on personal wellbeing is a trend we are witnessing across all geographies globally. Improving people’s lives through active living, nutritious food, and good health has no boundaries. From an industry perspective, as I mentioned, we have been operating in the areas of sports, health, food and consumer goods for decades. That is where we are directing our future investments as part of our new corporate strategy,” Baker concludes.