Swiss knife-maker cuts into perfume, cutlery wares

Thu May 14, 2009 1:20pm EDT
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By Josie Cox

SCHWYZ, Switzerland (Reuters Life!) - The 125-year-old maker of the Swiss Army knife is branching out into cutlery, watches shirts and perfume.

Victorinox Chief Executive Carl Elsener, a self-confessed perfectionist, said the range of newer products emblazoned with the firm's distinctive white cross within a red crest logo -- are breathing new life into the brand.

"Although we were initially unsure about launching a scent, we have had a lot of positive feedback," Elsener told Reuters, adding that 300 staff were now producing watches, while 900 work in the headquarters in Ibach making knives.

He said strong ethics and Christian values had also helped the group keep its head above water through the crisis.

"Of course we felt the credit crunch, people became uncertain and reluctant to buy, but since April we have been seeing real recovery," he said.

Founded in 1884, Victorinox has been issuing the Swiss military with its do-it-all knives since 1897.

Sales waned by about a third in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, when airlines banned knives -- often purchased at airport stores -- on board, but has since recovered to post a 2008 net profit of 485 million Swiss francs ($436.9 million),

"This was undoubtedly the hardest year in the history of Victorinox," Elsener, the fourth generation of his family running the firm who also has 11 relatives working in the factory, told Reuters.   Continued...

<p>Swiss army pocket knives lie on an assembly-line at the production facility of Swiss knife manufacturer Victorinox in the village of Ibach near Schwyz April 1, 2009. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann</p>