Home » News » Martial arts trade All-Sports throws in the towel after 35 years: “Corona was the death knell”

Martial arts trade All-Sports throws in the towel after 35 years: “Corona was the death knell”

All-Sports, a well-known name in the martial arts world, is closing its doors. After years of serving customers in Flanders and Wallonia, the managers, Johan Plancke and Nancy Staelens, have made the difficult decision to shut down. The store, which specializes in wholesale martial arts supplies and is famous for their Champ boxing gloves, has a history dating back to the time of Jean-Pierre Coopman. The closure of All-Sports is a result of various challenges, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and increased competition from online retailers. Despite their sadness, Johan and Nancy are grateful for the opportunity to share their passion for martial arts with customers over the past 35 years. In addition to martial arts items, the store also offers tailor-made corporate clothing. Although the closing sale is underway, Nancy plans to continue this aspect of the business. The warehouse, which houses the store, is also up for sale.

All Sports is shutting down. Managers Johan Plancke (54) and Nancy Staelens (52) have started a total sale. The end of an era, because the history of wholesale martial arts – Champ’s boxing gloves are their creation – dates back to the time of Jean-Pierre Coopman. “We are sorry, but we had no choice,” says Nancy.

All-Sports is a big name in the martial arts world. In addition to private individuals, Nancy and Johan also supply wholesalers to many sports clubs and retailers, both in Flanders and in Wallonia. Since 2013, the store can be found at Gitsbergstraat 7a in the industrial area in Beveren. Previously, the business was located in the Wallenstraat. “In the 1970s, my parents-in-law had a fabric shop there,” says Nancy. “They went to buy their supplies in England and because sports equipment was cheaper there than here, they created a sports corner in the store. This is how the story of All-Sports began. In the time of Jean-Pierre Coopman, they launched their own brand with Champ and eventually they decided to switch completely to sport.”

Many contact sports have seen young people leave due to corona, who have never returned afterwards. We didn’t get over that blow

Nancy Steeles

Johan himself started in the business in 1987. “Gradually we have completely focused on martial arts. We have known positive times and have very loyal customers who have been coming here for more than 30 years. Unfortunately, the number of customers has become smaller and smaller in recent years.” Nancy adds. “Online competition has increased sharply and I fear for the future of retail. Even if it was corona that was the death knell. The contact sports were the first to close and the last to reopen. Many contact sports have seen young people leave due to corona, who have never returned afterwards. We have not recovered from that blow.”

Nancy and Johan had hoped to continue running All-Sports until retirement, but that was not an option. “We hoped for recovery after corona, but that recovery never came. We have had many sleepless nights. We don’t have children, but this business is, as it were, our baby. And you don’t want to lose that. The passion for martial arts is still very strong with us, so we made this decision with enormous pain in our hearts. We started the sale on Thursday. Customers from years away stood here with tears in their eyes. We ourselves too. But we try to stay positive. In the past 35 years we have been able to share our love for the sport with many people and we are proud of that.”

Business attire

Apart from the martial arts items, the store also sells tailor-made corporate clothing, including finely embroidered texts on pullovers. “We will continue to do that,” Nancy adds. “In 2017 I participated in Shopping Queens op VIJF with Jani Kazaltzis (where four ladies present the most beautiful outfits on the catwalk with the same budget – ed.) And then it got a big boost. Especially because we can adapt perfectly to the needs of the customer. Is it for one pull or even for a hundred pulls, everything is possible.”

Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday you can go to All-Sports in Gitsbergstraat 7A between 9.30 and 17.30 for the sale. Everything goes out with a discount. The warehouse of 350 square meters, in which the business is located, is for sale.

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