UAE’s GMG to set up Saudi HQ in Riyadh, double Saudi workforce

Gulf Marketing Group has been in Saudi Arabia for 15 years, operates the popular Sun and Sand Sports brand

  
Birds eye view of the skyline of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Birds eye view of the skyline of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

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DUBAI: Gulf Marketing Group (GMG), a Dubai-based, family-owned conglomerate, has opened its new Saudi head office in Riyadh, and is aiming to double its workforce to over 2,400 once coronavirus disease (COVID-19) travel and restrictions are lifted.

Founded in Dubai in 1978 by the Baker family, the company operates around 90 brands across a multitude of retail sectors, including the Sun and Sand Sports chain, which is the Middle East’s largest sports retailer and distributes global brands such as Nike, Columbia and Vans.

GMG has been present in Saudi Arabia since 2006 and operates approximately 90 outlets across the Kingdom. In addition to Sun and Sand Sports, the company also plans to introduce some of its other portfolio brands, especially in the food and healthcare sector.

“The fact that our new Riyadh headquarters is three times bigger than our old offices clearly signals the scale of our ambitions in Saudi Arabia and our commitment to invest — not only in brick-and-mortar operations but also in our people, over half of whom are Saudi citizens,” the group’s deputy chairman and CEO, Mohammad A. Baker, said in a statement.

“Next year, we celebrate 15 years in Saudi Arabia, and strengthening our presence in the Kingdom is essential if we are to realize the next phase of our growth in the region’s largest economy and one of the fastest-growing retail markets.

“We believe Saudi Arabia has immense untapped potential. The government’s recent initiative calling upon the international private sector to further invest in the Kingdom is to be welcomed, particularly because it will pave the way for further job creation,” Baker said.

While COVID-19 saw many retail and entertainment facilities in the Kingdom shut due to attempts to restrict the spread of the disease, GMG said 2020 was actually a positive year for the group.

“COVID-19 was quite devastating … But, in terms of business and the landscape of sports within our countries that we operated in, it was actually a positive. It has allowed people to relook at their health, their bodies … So, our business actually flourished, not to the extent that we want it, but still it improved,” Baker told Arab News.

In addition to doubling its workforce, GMG also plans to launch bigger stores in the Kingdom, similar in size to the flagship outlets it operates in Dubai. “The importance and opportunity within Saudi Arabia, it is massive,” he said. “We still have a lot to do … and I think Saudi is going to be the key market for us to right now conquer and expand.”

The company opened a new 23,000 square meter warehouse outside Riyadh in January, adding to its existing office and warehousing facilities in Jeddah. Baker said it is also looking at developing more such facilities across the Kingdom, once the paperwork and approvals are in place.

It is not just in the bricks and mortar sector that GMG is aiming to expand, Baker said. It also plans to develop its e-commerce sector and bump up its online presence and e-commerce payment facilities. “Our averages are very much similar to the industry average. So, (the physical to online ratio) is coming to 90-10, and our aim is to change that and take it to 50-50,” he said, without giving a specific timeframe.

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