Duty Free shopping 101

by Anshul
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a store front with a sign

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Duty Free Store

Often measured in $ per sq. ft. earnings, duty free stores are a major revenue source for airports (seaports, land crossing as well) and a big chunk of their bottom line. Duty free shopping can save hundreds of dollars if done right. Much like other retail stores, DF stores excel at studying customer behavior and target them with advertising, product placement and sales to nudge into buying what they don’t really need. “Its cheaper because its duty free” is a myth that airports would love everyone to believe.

Duty free shopping has become a norm at the point of departure or during transit. However, several countries have DF stores located in the arrivals terminal, just after clearing immigration. Also called in-bound duty free stores, are of great convenience to passengers that prefer to not lug purchases around airport terminals in transit.

In some countries DF stores are also available outside the airport, in the city (Duty free malls in Japan and Philippines for example). Since these stores don’t have to pay huge airport rentals, products are often cheaper compared to DF stores in airport. These stores serve tourists with foreign passports and also deliver the purchases to the airport on the day of departure.

Last but not least, airlines also take a share of this market by offering DF products on board. Many loyalty programs and elite status come with discount coupons and bonus miles promotion for shopping on board. This can be a good way of getting discounted DF items and earning miles at the same time.

Tips on Duty Free Shopping

  • Know the retail cost of the product in your home country and destination. DF pricing is different at each airport so use Duty Free Addict (.com), a great resource to compare DF product pricing around the world.
  • Alcohol and Tobaco are heavily taxed in most countries so usually are good bargains in DF stores. Be careful when buying Electronics, they are often not the latest models and come with restrictive warranties.
  • Items bought at DF stores often come with a no return policy, make sure to ask before paying.
  • Always pay in local currency. Choosing to pay in home currency involves exorbitant exchange rates. Pay using a credit card that does not charge currency exchange fee.
  • Know allowance limits –  both $ amount and volume limit.
  • If you have a connecting flight, make sure you have room to store DF products in bags before re-checking. If storing in carry-on, ensure you don’t exceed weight limits.
  • Dont forget to declare DF items bought on the Customs declaration form.

As always, a bit of research before shopping at DF stores can be a huge money saver. Happy shopping!









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