Money Saver India
What not to buy at a duty-free shop

What not to buy at a duty-free shop

Contrary to popular belief, duty-free shopping doesn't have to be much cheaper. In fact, if you leave aside cigarettes and alcohol, it's often a worse option than simply shopping online.

It’s easy to be tempted into a duty-free shop. You’ve got time to kill and everything’s cheaper than back home. A great deal, no matter what you buy… except that it’s not.

Particularly with the rupee as weak as it currently is, duty-free shopping isn’t the perk it’s often made out to be. A number of items sold duty-free – including perfumes, electronics and watches – are often beaten by a wide margin by our very own stores. In fact, aside from alcohol and cigarettes, which are uniformly cheaper (especially if Mumbai is home), everything else is worth doing an online price check for.

Here’s what we found:

Plain expensive: Contrary to expectations, duty-free was, on average, more expensive than retail. The unfortunate truth about duty-free shops is that they aren’t the same as discount shops. You don’t pay duty, but the retailer doesn’t have to pass on any discount to you. Whole segments of items were more expensive duty-free than on stores such as Flipkart and Jabong, as you’ll find in the following tables for perfume and sunglasses. Even as duty-free stores told us we were saving big, our online stores seemed to be able to beat them every time.

Perfume Online Dubai Heathrow Melbourne Frankfurt
Burberry The Beat Rs3,250 Rs3,803 n/a n/a Rs4,389
Calvin Klein Eternity Aqua Rs3,330 Rs4,144 n/a Rs2,800 Rs3,827
Davidoff Cool Water Rs2,640 Rs3,433 Rs2,952 Rs2,688 Rs2,800

Sunglasses Online Dubai London Melbourne Frankfurt
Ray Ban Wayfarers Rs5,590 n/a Rs8,646 n/a Rs8,009
Maui Jim Hookipa Rs6,990 n/a n/a Rs11,200 Rs9,001
Emporio Armani Aviators Rs7,899 n/a Rs9,068 n/a Rs10,549

Overpriced electronics: Electronics, we thought, would be cheaper in Dubai Duty Free, given that this usually holds true for electronics in Dubai. Without duty, though, these products become more expensive (barring Apple products!; see below), with Dubai Duty Free set to benefit from a captive customer. Therefore, before buying anything here, always check the price online. We found that a smartphone from Samsung at a 32% premium over online prices at Dubai duty free.

Technology Online Dubai Heathrow Melbourne Frankfurt
Galaxy S Duos Rs12,230 Rs16,265 n/a n/a n/a
iPod Touch 5th Gen Rs23,900 Rs18,900 n/a Rs16,744 n/a
iPad 2 16GB Rs23,800 Rs23,665 n/a Rs21,840 n/a
Sony Xperia Z Rs37,990 n/a n/a Rs38,050 n/a
Nikon D600 Rs149,332 Rs170,185 n/a Rs167,944 n/a

Watches Online Dubai Heathrow Melbourne Frankfurt
Citizen Ecodrive Rs31,500 n/a n/a Rs56,000 Rs50,622
Ice Analog Rs5,524 n/a Rs10,545 n/a 4,624
Citizen Promaster Rs18,000 n/a n/a Rs23,014 Rs38,232

Still worth a look: If you’re not an impulse shopper, duty free is still worth a look, so long as you have internet access at the time. There may be a good discount just when you happen to be travelling or perhaps a particular airport just happens to offer some products at a significant discount. Apple products, for example, are available at a significant discount at both Dubai and Melbourne airports. Hunting for a deal could, therefore, yield some results, but just don’t be under the assumption that duty-free deals are always good.

*all prices as on May 20, 2013

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