Britain’s biggest sportswear retailer JD Sports Fashion will open about 50 stores in the Middle East after agreeing its first ever franchise deal with Dubai-based GMG, it said on Monday.
The trainers and sportswear chain said its entry into the region forms part of it strategy to expand into underpenetrated markets.
The 10-year agreement will focus on locations in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt.
JD noted that a heightened focus on health and wellness, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, has driven strong growth in the athletic leisure market in the Middle East.
“Through my own career, I have seen firsthand the massive untapped potential for retailers in the Middle East,” JD CEO Régis Schultz said.
In February, JD said it would spend up to 3 billion pounds($3.8 billion) to open as many as 1,750 stores over five years, as Schultz outlined his plans for the retailer to become an athletic leisurewear “powerhouse”.
In May, JD agreed to buy France’s Groupe Courir, which trades from 313 stores.
Last week, JD said there had been some softening in trade in its North American business in June, which would be offset by growth in demand in the UK, Europe and Asia Pacific.
Shares in JD are up 16% so far this year.