Several former managers at Wenger have returned to the Swiss knives market with the Swiza brand. Targeting outdoor retailers and department stores, they are currently expanding their distribution in Europe and aiming at both parts of America for the years to come.
Swiza knives are marketed by Helvetica Brands, which is owned by several investors and was established about two years ago in Delémont, in northwestern Switzerland. They invested in machinery and a manufacturing site, in the same building as the offices, to get their knives made in the country. The Swiza range further comprises travel backpacks and watches, targeting people who are active in the outdoors.
The venture is led by Peter Hug, former chief executive of Wenger. This company was taken over in 2005 by Victorinox, which subsequently decided to discontinue the production of Swiss knives under the Wenger brand from 2014. About half of the 21 employees at Helvetica Brands come from Wenger, including the head of manufacturing and the supply chain manager.
Swiza aimed to offer an alternative, although the company emphasizes that it has come up with an entirely new design and many functional improvements – such as the absence of sharp edges in the closed position and openings that can be used with finger tips instead of nails. The managers have been told by retailers that demand is strongest among young adults and women.
The company has doubled its capacity since the products hit the market last year but is already preparing to nearly double it again in March. Swiza has distribution agreements for Germany and France, and it has been selling into several other European countries, from Italy to the Benelux countries and Russia. The distribution in Switzerland also includes higher-end tourist shops.