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Jul 5, 2005 4:17 pm

How Victorinox Is Meeting the Challenges of a New Era

Today’s Guardian carries an interesting story on how Victorinox, the firm which makes the Swiss army knife, is adapting to the world post-9/11.

Carl Elsener, the great-grandson of Karl Elsener, the man who, in 1884, invented the Swiss army knife, explains how 9/11 hit his business.

“"It was an absolute catastrophe for us," Elsener says."Until then our knives had sold very well both in duty free shops and on board planes. Most airlines sold them, including British Airways. Then suddenly this distribution was closed. It was zero. The merchandise came back to us. This was really very hard." Under new airline regulations, passengers could no longer carry the Swiss army knife in their hand luggage. Those who didn't comply had their knives confiscated - and they weren't returned at the other end.

“The effects were sudden, and devastating. Sales of Swiss army knives dropped by 40% almost immediately.”

Read here how Elsener’s firm is fighting to sustain its sales in the face of state regulation and against cheap imitations from China. I found it an inspiring story of entrepreneurship.

One last thought. “Last month it [Victorinox] registered the deep red colour of its Swiss army knives as a patent.” That sounds more like a trademark to me.

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