UK-based sportswear retailer JD Sports has entered the Middle Eastern market by signing a ten-year franchise deal with Dubai-based wellbeing company GMG.

The move is part of the retailer’s strategy to expand into underpenetrated markets.

Under the terms of the agreement, GMG will open 50 stores under the JD fascia by 2028 in various markets, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt.

This will contribute to JD’s plans to open between 200 and 300 new stores annually over the next five years.

JD Sports CEO Régis Schultz said: “We are very pleased to be delivering this historic deal, the first franchise agreement JD has entered, in partnership with GMG. Through my own career, I have seen first-hand the massive untapped potential for retailers in the Middle East and I am certain that GMG – with their expansive retail expertise and a local understanding of the customer – are the best partner for us in the region.

“We also know, from our love index, that no matter the market there is a direct correlation between having a strong physical retail presence and popularity and love for the brand. We are excited by the opportunity to explore franchise partnerships as an avenue for further store growth in underpenetrated markets, leveraging the global growth phenomenon of athleisure while bringing our proven proposition to more customers worldwide.”

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Earlier this year, the UK-based sports and outdoor retailer revealed plans to spend £500m ($606m) to £600m ($727m) a year to expand its operations over the next five years.