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Duty free is not always value for money, so how do you get the best deals?

New research from consumer group Which? has found that airport duty free prices on some products are now cheaper in supermarkets, in High Street stores and online.

All prices stated in the research were checked between 10 and 13 March this year, were rounded up to the nearest £1 and include delivery costs for online orders. Which? said they were shocked to find such price differences especially when there is a common assumption that a lack of VAT on airport shopping will mean cheaper prices.

Some examples of price differences Which? found in their study include:

  • A 70cl bottle of Tanqueray gin – £18 at Heathrow Terminal 2, £15 at Morrisons
  • A 360g bar of Toblerone – £4 at Bristol World Duty Free, £3 at Asda
  • 100ml bottle Eternity for Men eau de toilette – £46 at Birmingham World Duty Free, £25 on Amazon

It’s not just the standard food, alcohol and fragrances which are costing more at Duty Free, as Lego Star Wars toys and SanDisk memory cards were both selling in selected duty free stores for a significant amount more than in High Street stores.

duty free content

However, it’s not all doom and gloom for those looking to grab a bargain at duty free with some good offers still to be found including iPad mini’s and Fitbit’s for £10 less at Glasgow International airport than in John Lewis.

So how do you manage to grab a bargain and shop well at duty free when research like this proves that duty free may not be as cheap as we initially thought? We’ve put together some tips to help you with your duty free shopping:

  • Don’t be blinded by duty free – As this new research shows duty free is not always the best or cheapest option for buying certain products. Duty free may seem like a great option for bagging some bargains but the assumption of reduced prices does not always mean value for money.
  • You don’t always have to buy something – As with any shop you don’t always have to make a purchase. Although, duty free can be tempting, if you don’t need it or you don’t think it is a good price, don’t buy it.
  • Do your research – Check the prices of the items you are wanting to purchase online before you go on holiday, this way you will be prepared with the latest prices to get the best deal in duty free or not.
  • Be aware you may not always be getting the best deal – Keep in mind that you may not be getting the best deal despite perceptions which would have you believe so. If you are aware you may get a better deal elsewhere, you are more likely to get the best deals.
  • Buy basic holiday items before you get to the airport – Items such as toiletries, clothes and books are cheaper if you buy before you get to the airport. The best duty free deals are usually on items such as food, drink and fragrance, again be aware of price differences.

Following up on their research, Which? urged shoppers to “always do your research before you head to the airport to make sure the ‘deal’ is not actually dearer than you find on the high street or online”.

References and further reading

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