By Shane McGinley
Retail giant plans 100 store and two hotel openings across Middle East by June 2011
Landmark Group, the Gulf retail giant, on Wednesday said it would invest AED200m ($54m) in opening 100 retail stores by June 2011, and two new hotels by the end of the year.
The Dubai-based conglomerate, which this month acquired the Middle East franchise for gym chain Fitness First, said the expansion would see its workforce grow by 20 percent.
“We plan to add about 100 stores this year in the twelve months starting in July  to June ,” said Vipen Sethi, CEO of Landmark Group.
The new stores will focus on Landmark’s existing franchise brands, including Babyshop, Shoe Mart, HomeCentre and Centrepoint.
“We are looking at growing into Syria and [to] open in Lebanon in early November. Libya we are trying to do a franchise operation,” he said.
The financing for the expansion plans will come from Landmark’s internal resources, Sethi added. The firm claims a turnover of about $3.8bn and is targeting $5bn within the next three years, helped by forecast growth of 20 percent a year.
“We have liquidity for that expansion,” Sethi said.
Landmark has 900 existing stores across the Middle East, India, Turkey and Pakistan, and employs 31,000 staff.
The company said it will also expand its hospitality arm with the launch of two further Citymax hotels in the next ten weeks.
The first Citymax hotel opened in Dubai in 2008. The economy hotel brand will base its new outlets in Bur Dubai and Sharjah.
“Economy hotels are something we want to focus on the future, but we have to wait and see how these hotels work and then we will look at expanding it,” said Sethi.
It is the latest in a string of expansion deals announced by the retail group. Earlier this month, Landmark bought the franchise rights to Fitness First health clubs for an undisclosed price from Saudi Arabia's Alhokair group.
In September, the Landmark subsidiary C1 Acquisitions made a bid of £90.3m to take over restaurant chain Carluccio's.
It is also a must to involve local partners in such expansion plans.