On their 125th anniversary, Victorinox opened a new Flagship Store in the UK. Three Points of the Compass ventured into London to see what was on offer.
Victorinox closed their store in London’s Bond Street during covid. Almost three years later, Three Points of the Compass was keen to see what their new Flagship Store in Oxford Street had to offer. I visited on the store’s ‘grand-opening’ and was not disappointed. It is much as you would expect- high end, quality goods that includes travel gear, watches and fragrances. But walk upstairs and the iconic Victorinox knife is in profusion. Brightly lit cases line the walls and themed collections of knives are on show. Classic red Cellidor scales abound, Alox scales glint in the bright lights, warm walnut wood-scaled knives tempt the wallet. It doesn’t end there, recent releases of Limited and Special Edition knives are grouped in small, uncluttered floor cases. These are almost devoid of embellishment, instead relying on the allure of the product itself. Below the cased examples, many of the standard range are fastened to theft proof cabling and can be handled and compared to their nearby cousins. If you want to get a feel of a Victorinox knife before committing, this is the place to go.
This part of London suffered in recent years as a result of money-laundering and dodgy fake goods activity by some souvenir and candy shops, but police and trading standards have done a good job in targeting this and the area is regaining its prestige and status as a destination location. Victorinox had been waiting a long time to obtain a suitable site in much-in-demand Oxford Street. Talking to the exec’s during my visit, they revealed that they had been content to wait for the right location to open up. Their patience has paid off. The store is a good size, not huge, but adequate to their needs. It is spread across two floors- an entrance straight off the street to the ground floor displays with a winding stairway up to the floor above.
The ground floor is where visitors will find Victorinox Travel Gear displayed. I had mistakenly assumed that luggage would account for the majority of in-store purchases, but it was explained to me that at Bond Street, their previous London location, luggage had accounted for around 46% of sales with knife products responsible for much of the remainder.
There are other Victorinox branded items such as watches, chef’s knives, kitchen ware and fragrances on display. Outside of London, the latter currently account for around two per cent of Victorinox sales, but as one of Victorinox’s senior management confided to me, “it may only be a tiny part, but a tiny part of many millions, is a lot of money”.
Senior management from Victorinox travelled to the UK for the opening of the new store. Most had enjoyed a soirée in the store the previous evening and a handful were on site for the grand opening on 17 November 2022. Three Points of the Compass was able to spend a few minutes discussing store ambitions, UK placement and all things knives with them. Carl Elsener, CEO Victorinox, was keen to stress his belief that a London location is important to their plans to reinforce and promote the brand globally.
It has to be remembered that brand recognition doesn’t just occur. It has to be worked on and money spent. The result is that the Swiss knife maker now enjoys an enviable worldwide reputation for good quality products.
On my visit there was a mobile barista with free Victorinox Swiss chocolate pocketknives on offer. I suspect the space taken by that will soon be swapped for further goods from the Victorinox portfolio. There is a lift between floors and disabled w/c facility.
Victorinox has a Gravotech M20 in store on which a technician can engrave a customer’s personal message on to the scale of a knife. I was going to have a Spartan Lite engraved but despite the store inventory showing there were nine on site, they couldn’t find them. Such are the teething problems of a new store. My order was taken, and it’ll turn up eventually.
With two years of covid and no UK presence there is now a long waiting list of people that would prefer to take their beloved knife into an actual store for repair. Repairs can be accepted, and some minor repairs carried out in store, more extensive repair will be sent off. The ‘build your own knife’ service is also on offer. A specialist technician guides you through your self-assembly of a Swiss Army Knife, with the option of an engraving on the finished product. This is much appreciated as a special birthday present or for other occasions.
As the UK slips into recession, it is a brave decision for a European manufacturer to invest in a large and expensive outlet in a country that is steadily refining its fear of knives and anyone who carries one. Thankfully there are still enough of us venturing into the outdoors in need of a quality tool, or battling to complete an urban task where a handy multitool will help, or simply appreciative of the aesthetics on offer, that will continue to buy Victorinox. It is only right that they have returned, their previous location in Bond Street was the first Flagship Store that Victorinox opened in Europe. Three Points of the Compass applauds Victorinox on their vision and faith in their product and ingenuity.
It is standard catalogue products that are on sale. Beyond the current Limited and Special Edition knives, there are no products special to the store. There are no discontinued or ‘seconds’ knives on sale. It is pristine, modern. Staff are friendly, helpful and keen. Horacio Arteaga Cruz, the store’s new manager is a whirlwind of movement and keen that his store is a success.
The Oxford Street Flagship Store is open seven days a week and the easiest way to get there is by public transport. On my visit, I travelled into London to Victoria Railway Station, from there, it is a 1.6 mile walk, taking in Buckingham Palace and a wander through leafy Green Park en route.
Don’t go expecting competitive prices, invariably you will find standard pricing and knives are often offered by third party retailers for less. What this store does offer however, is unrivalled opportunity to actually see and handle a product before purchase. I defy you to walk out empty-handed!
Three Points of the Compass has looked at quite a few knives and multi-tools that may, or may not, be suitable for backpacking, day treks or Every Day Carry. While some are Victorinox products, many are from other manufacturers. Links to these can be found here.