Designer Discounted

Designer Shopping in Airports: Do Duty-Free Shops Still Have Luxurious Bargains?

Luxury duty-free shops were once hidden gems in airports, offering some of the best deals in designer handbags, shoes, and clothing. But things seem to have changed. That duty-free Prada doesn’t quite have what it takes to wow a casual shopper out for a bargain. In fact, designer purses usually cost much less online. By hitting the mainstream shops during sale seasons, you can also beat duty-free prices.

That said, there’s still hope of scoring a cheaper Fendi, Dior, or Hermes at an airport. Keep these tips in mind to maximize your chances:

1. The best deals are in duty-free airports abroad.

You’ll really feel the deals when you’re coming from a high-tax country and you’re suddenly shopping in Dubai International Airport. London Heathrow also has a fantastic designer shopping selection. It’s long been known as the place to go to save 20% on Chanel handbags. If a handbag typically costs £1,875, for example, you £1,562. That’s a better deal than what you’ll find in Paris, even with the 13% tourist VAT refund.

The Chanel outlet in Heathrow sells current-season items and has a good selection of PSTs, WOCs, and GSTs; classic flaps aren’t always available, but you can call 44-20-87541000 to ask. The shop is located in Terminal 3 and is open from 7:00am to 10:00pm.  

As of September 2013, these were the prices of duty-free Chanel bags:

Chanel WOC - £888.00
Chanel PST Bag - £1,020.00
Chanel GST - £1,333.33
Chanel Cerf Tote - £1,612.50

2. Only buy when you’re saving at least 20%.

Discounts smaller than 20% simply aren’t good enough, especially now that it’s possible to get as much as 70% off online if you act quickly. Be sure to sign up as a member of to get first dibs on online designer discounts.   

3. If you want to buy designer cosmetics and perfumes, go for the multipacks that yield big savings.

There’s no point in buying just one bottle, unless you’re desperate for a last-minute gift.

4. Make sure you really love the item you are buying, as international returns can be tricky.

Inspect the item thoroughly before paying for it. You may be charged for return shipping should you want a refund or replacement later on.

5. Check the prices online so you can compare before you buy.

In some cases, it’s cheaper to buy that handbag in the US. This is particularly true when it comes to Michael Kors and its diffusion lines, which seems to be overpriced in Hong Kong’s duty free shops. We were there a month ago and were  shocked to see large Fulton body bags priced at $280 (2190 HKD) when you can buy them online in the US for $188 or less

Michael Kors Duty Free
MICHAEL Michael Kors bags are much more expensive in Hong Kong International Airport than in the US.  

We also spotted overpriced Kate Spade Leroy bags selling for $400+ (3200 KKD).
You can get them online for $378 retail, and $226 when discounted.

Kate Spade Duty Free 1
Kate Spade Duty Free

The Cobble Hill Little Minka bags were selling for $420 (3400 HKD), but you can get them online for around $250 when discounted.

Our Verdict

There’s a thrill in spotting a designer bargain in the duty-free shops, but if it’s serious discounts you are looking for, you might be disappointed. You’ll find better deals online.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Sign up to become a member of to get first dibs on online designer discounts. We’ll help you find the best prices on everything luxurious. This service is free!

Published March 26, 2014 by Carine Ferguson
Designer Discounted