Retail in Asia


In conversation with Victorinox chairperson Carl Elsener on crafting enduring icons

Some objects shine brightly among the rest and attain iconic status, instantly recognised for their distinct style and effortless usability. Swiss cutler Karl Elsener created one such icon in 1897 with the Swiss Army Knife, which would go on to achieve accolades in the realm of industrial design and propel his brand, Victorinox, to tremendous success.

Emphasising innovation, design, functionality, and quality, Elsener’s pocketknives became indispensable not only for military personnel but also for professionals in various fields and everyday adventurers. The principles underlying this iconic invention laid the foundation for the establishment of the Victorinox brand, which continues to be run by Elsener’s great-grandchildren more than 125 years later.

Retail in Asia speaks with Carl Elsener, chairperson of Victorinox and great-grandson of the brand’s founder, Karl Elsener, to discuss Victorinox’s evolution and strategy in Asia.

SEE ALSO: Travel essentials and beyond: Tumi creative director Victor Sanz on the brand’s audience-centric approach

Victorinox’s Year of the Dragon 2024 collection. Source: Victorinox
RiA: Victorinox has existed over a century. How do you approach the brand’s evolution, in terms of both product categories and also market presence?

Carl Elsener: Victorinox’s brand pillars are defined by the qualities of the Swiss Army Knife™, quality, functionality, innovation and design. Innovation being a key pillar of our brand ensures that we are always evolving and staying modern.

We are proud of our heritage, and we know it’s a strength of ours as the values that make up the foundation of the brand have driven us forward and will continue to do so. We focus on staying authentic to the brand and continuously work on understanding our ever-changing environment and consumer needs better so we can continue to deliver products that resonate across the world without compromising on what we stand for.

Carl Elsener Jr. is the great-grandson of Victorinox founder Karl Elsener, and chairperson of the company today. Source: Victorinox
RiA: Which categories are seeing the most promising growth or demand for Victorinox in Asia?

Elsener: All our product categories have importance and growth potential within the market. Post-pandemic, we are seeing an increased appetite for travel within the region and consumers are looking for premium goods and quality offering which is a great opportunity for our travelgear.

There is already a high regard for our travelgear which makes up nearly 70 percent of our total sales value in Hong Kong and Asia. The Spectra 3.0 is our bestselling collection [in Hong Kong], so we are continuing to put our focus on communicating our premium product offering and increasing our presence as a brand. 

Source: Victorinox
RiA: Please tell us what is new for Victorinox – share with us a few key developments in Asia.

Elsener: Globally, we have entered the next stage of our evolved brand strategy which aims to build on our premium brand positioning and create higher emotional engagement with our consumers.

To deliver this, we have a retail and experience driven strategy in place with an omnichannel approach to engage with consumers and deliver a complete experience both online and offline. In Hong Kong, we look at increasing our presence both in travelgear distribution and our own points of retail. 

SEE ALSO: LOJEL embarks on ambitious expansion in Hong Kong with its first global flagship in 2024

Victorinox concept store in Hong Kong’s IFC mall. Source: Victorinox
RiA: You have opened a new concept store in IFC mall in Hong Kong. Can you tell us about the concept ? Where will you next bring this concept to in Asia?

Elsener: Our new store at the IFC mall in Hong Kong is the latest store to open featuring our new design concept. Its modern design showcases our industrial roots and authentically reflects our premium positioning, bringing together the Victorinox story, products and core values with the ultimate shopping experience. 

We have elements in the store that allow shoppers to dive deep into the world of Victorinox and our products, its built to provide a more tactile and immersive experience and allow consumers to test and understand the products. We will be looking at refreshing our existing stores and strategically opening new ones where we see the need.