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Geddes Grant readies for fresh inflow of int’l business

T. Geddes Grant Distributors Limited is pumping $450 million into the expansion and rebranding of its business, investment that’s aimed at wooing a fresh set of clients out of the United States.

The company, which has been operating in Jamaica’s distribution and logistics landscape since 1901 and is a member of the Musson Group, wants to take on new international business clients to continue on its growth path. But first, it is making some internal changes to gin up prospective clients’ confidence in its ability to effectively execute on sales targets.

Earlier this month, Geddes Grant completed a debt raise of $450 million, $360 million or 80 per cent of which Managing Director Michael Subratie says will go towards the expansion of a warehouse at its hub located at 109 Marcus Garvey Drive in Kingston.

The Marcus Garvey Drive lands span six acres or 261,000 square feet, but just about 100,000 square feet is utilised for building space.

“We want to add another 40,000 square feet in warehouse space to facilitate new business as well as to give ourselves more room to operate because we are currently maxed out,” Subratie told the Financial Gleaner.

“Importantly, we will be looking to get the most use of this building by taking advantage of its height. These warehouses are usually very high,” he added.

Construction is now under way, and plans are to have the building fitted with industrial racks and operational by January 2024.

The completion of that capex project will coincide with plans by Subratie to rebrand the company’s name and image as well as the implementation of new distribution software to improve on the efficiency of the business. Combined, that is estimated to cost T. Geddes Grant another $90 million, or the remaining 20 per cent of the debt raise, which was arranged by Scotia Investments Jamaica Limited, its long-time financing partner.

The brokerage said in a release that the $450 million for Geddes Grant was raised via private placement on the debt market. Last year, Scotia also arranged the refinancing of $1.4 billion of the distribution company’s debt.

“We are working on improving our IT systems to better respond to clients’ needs. We are also broadening the areas in which we are internationally certified in food safety, and we will also be rebranding our business from T. Geddes Grant Distributors Limited to ‘Geddes Grant’,” Subratie said.

Its last reported retooling and expansion project took place around 2014 when the company gave its office complex, which was developed in the 1950s, a facelift and equipped the space with modern furniture. At the time, its staff had undergone training and repositioning.

A relaunch of the rebranded business is being planned for some time in January.

“It will be a complete new look and business experience for our clients and our employees. And by February, we will launch our new marketing drive to promote the business,” Subratie added.

Geddes Grant is one of Jamaica’s leading distribution and logistics companies, spanning five divisions: food, pharmaceuticals, consumer, office equipment, and agricultural products. Its distributed brands include Huggies diapers, Scott tissue under the Kimberly Clarke account, Dr Reddy’s, Glenmark, Round Up, Fersan, Blue Ribbon Rice, Lifespan Spring Water, Geddy’s, Ranbaxy, United Biscuits, along with Dams and Herman Miller for office equipment.

Two years ago, the company expanded existing distribution relationships with key clients such as Nestle to become its largest subdistributor on the island. T. Geddes Grant is also a major player in the distribution of sugar, and in recent times, began distributing new beverage brands such as Fruta and Kool Kids.

The lion’s share of the distribution company’s revenue comes from the international brands it distributes, comprising around three-quarters of the business. Arrangements with domestic companies contribute 15 per cent while the other 10 per cent is regional business.

“We are looking for new agents to represent primarily in the merchandise division, which is food and beverage and the pharmaceutical division. We are already in dialogue with potential clients, and we have given them assurances that we will be ready by the first quarter of 2024, and once the expansion and the rebranding is completed, we will be taking clients in to see our facilities,” Subratie said.

“I can’t say their names, but these are well-known brands,” he said.

In line with the plans to grow revenues, Geddes Grant is also looking to increase its workforce. Subratie says the company currently has 600 employees on staff and will push that number to 750 come next year. Geddes Grant also employs 40 contract workers.

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