Army gives suppliers seal of approval

Swiss army approved sunglasses will go on sale on April. Lunetta

Switzerland’s armed forces have come up with what may prove to be a new money-spinner by bestowing a quality certificate on some of their suppliers.

This content was published on March 27, 2004 minutes

For a licence fee, the army is prepared to officially approve products such as shoes and sunglasses that can be sold on the civilian market.

On April 1, Switzerland’s two biggest retailers, Migros and Coop, will start selling sunglasses tested and used by Swiss mountain troops. The eyewear will carry the label “Approved by Armasuisse”.

Lunetta, the company which makes the glasses, hopes that the new label will boost sales for the model by 30 per cent. Without the armed forces’ official stamp of approval, it sold approximately 60,000 pairs last year.

“Armasuisse”, the company responsible for equipping the Swiss army, set up its quality label programme in response to demand from its suppliers.

“They wanted to distribute the products they sell to us on the civilian market,” said Jürg Billeter of Armasuisse.

“Most of these products aren’t distinctive enough by themselves so we suggested a label.”

Global recognition

Billeter told swissinfo that the Swiss armed forces’ reputation for using quality products was world famous.

“The success of the Victorinox company abroad with the Swiss army knife and watches is just one example of the strength of our reputation,” he added.

So far, six licensees have signed up for the quality label. Besides sunglasses, the products include shoes, chemical protection clothing, casual wear and “sweat management” articles for the winter.

The Swiss shoemaker, Ammann, is hoping to sell around 20,000 boots with the army label this year. With three different styles, the company is targeting border guards, police and security personnel, but also the general public.

Indian textiles

The Armasuisse label is not limited to Swiss-made products.

An Indian textile supplier, Qualiance, is also betting on the quality label to boost its sales. The company believes that since durability and quality are key criteria on the international market, the Swiss army label is a valuable marketing tool.

“Products bearing our quality label will be sold in the Far East and North America in a few months’ time,” said Billeter.

In the United States and Canada, Swiss Army Brands (SAB) – a product distributor owned by Victorinox - will get first right to sell the newly-approved products.

But if SAB turns down the offer, the licensee can seek out other distributors, according to Armasuisse.

“We reckon it will earn us around SFr100,000 ($79,000) by the end of this year,” Billeter told swissinfo.

swissinfo, Scott Capper

In brief

The “Approved by Armasuisse” label is granted to manufacturers whose products have passed army tests, as well as those carried out by the Swiss Materials Science and Technology Institute.

Companies pay the Swiss armed forces a licensing fee based on sales once they get the official approval.

The label is not granted to products used only for military purposes, such as weapons.

The licensees must also guarantee the products are manufactured under humane and environmentally-friendly conditions.

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