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Duty Free Prices v High Steet - Which is Cheaper?

We’ve all been tempted by that great offer in the airport Duty Free shop only to find out that we could have bought the same item cheaper in the supermarket when home. By definition, purchasing an item in a ‘Duty Free’ shop should represent a great saving over the high street, supermarket or even online purchases as there is no duty to be paid on the item. In theory, the saving on duty should be passed onto the customer, however in practise that is seldom the case.

Airport Duty Free v High Street

You have to remember that whilst the Duty Free shop may not charge the duty on any given item, they still price the item accordingly to maximise profits, resulting in often higher duty free rates when compared like for like with supermarket or high street prices. For instance, duty on spirits purchased in the UK are £28.74 per litre of pure alcohol. Translated into English, this means for the average litre bottle of 40% ABV vodka, £11.50 of the price you pay is duty, which in theory should result in a litre bottle of 40% ABV vodka purchase in a Duty Free shop costing £11.50 less than the high street – you’ll be hard pushed to find such a saving at your average Duty Free airport shop.

We’ve looked at prices from some of the most popular Duty Free items from the UK’s largest Duty Free store chain, ‘World Duty Free’ and compared prices to leading high street prices and what deals you can get online.

Duty Free Shopping v High Street

Is Alcohol cheaper in Duty Free?

We looked at 7 popular items available in Duty Free and compared to high street and online prices and revealed that only 4 of the 7, some 53% were actually cheaper in Duty Free shops, with 1 item cheaper on the high street and 2 items cheaper online.

Alcohol Duty Free v High Street

Are Fragrances cheaper in Duty Free?

Of all 4 fragrances we checked (2 for women and 2 for men), Duty Free prices came out on top, the closest price we found was for Paco Rabanne 1 Million EDT 50ml priced at £39.39 in Duty Free and available for £40.49 online, representing a saving of just £1.10.

Perfume Duty Free v High Street

Are Sunglasses cheaper in Duty Free?

We looked 2 of the most popular pairs of designer sunglasses, one of which was cheaper from Duty Free but the other not. Women’s Prada PR 08OS were over £20 cheaper at the airport compared to the best price found online, whereas Oakley Frogskins can be found nearly £20 cheaper online and even £2 cheaper on the high street than from airport Duty Free.

Is sun cream cheaper in Duty Free?

Duty Free shops often sell ‘designer sun cream’ as opposed to your regular branded sun cream you might find in the super markets or pharmacies on the high street. Our research shows that only P20 Once a day SPF 20 200ml could be found cheaper online compared to Duty Free. However, unless you specifically want premium sun cream, you’re likely better off buying it from the pharmacy in the airport, most airports have a Boots or Superdrug store who sell own-branded sun cream at must cheaper rates often providing equal, if not higher UVA and UVB ratings than premium brands.

Is chocolate cheaper in Duty Free?

Quite simply, no. Confectionary is a big seller in duty free, the amount of shelf space given to popular chocolate and sweets products proves its popularity. However it’s rarely cheaper and often far more expensive. Expect to pay nearly double the high street price for a 250g bag of M&M’s and similar for a 300g bar of Cadbury’s dairy milk. Toblerone, an airport favourite is also usually much cheaper from your high street store.

Is Lego cheaper in Duty Free?

Yes, generally speaking toys, in particular branded toys like Lego that are rarely discounted in stores are more often than not cheaper in airport Duty Free. You can always check prices online from your smart phone at the airport if you’re unsure.

Is Skin care / Make-up cheaper in Duty Free?

Another win for Duty Free shopping here, much like fragrances, when it comes to skincare and make-up, Duty Free shopping at the airport is often your best bet. Of all 7 products we checked prices, only Urban Decay Naked Heat Palette was cheaper on the high street, all other products were cheaper in Duty Free, the biggest saving found on Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream SPF 30 50ml which came in at a whopping £14.20 (or 20%) cheaper than the high street or online!

EU Duty Free or Outside of the EU

Another crafty tactic employed by airport Duty Free shops is to publish prices only available to those travelling outside of the EU. With the majority of travellers passing through UK airports destined for other EU countries, these offers are not available and you’ll find a vast different in the price available to EU travellers versus those travelling outside of the EU. This situation is likely change when the UK leaves the EU, will UK travellers be able to take advantage of non EU Duty Free prices in a post-Brexit world? Whether the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal, Duty Free prices at the airport are likely to change. In this example, a litre of Bombay Saphire gin is available for £27.75 for EU travellers, but just £22.19 for non-EU travellers, although the special offer of 2 for £35, equates to just £17.50 per litre, or less than half the price that an EU traveller would pay (although the same product is available from the UK high street for just £22).

Alcohol duty free prices compared to highstreet and online

Product (cheapest price) Duty Free £ High Street £ High Street Online £ Online
Grey Goose Vodka 70cl £34.49 £38.00 Sainsburys £33.95 Amazon
Smirnoff Vodka Red 1L £12.00 £17 Sainsburys £17 Amazon
Gordons Gin 1L £12.00 £17 Sainsburys 17 Amazon
Bombay Sapphire 1L £22.19 £22 Tesco/Asda £29.91 Amazon
Jack Daniels 1L £28.49 £25 Asda / Morrisons £23 Amazon
Bacardi 1L £12 £18 Tesco / Morrisons £29.54 Amazon
Moet & Chandon Rose Imperial Champagne 75cl £33.45 £40 Tesco / Sainsburys £40 Amazon

Womens fragrance duty free prices compared to highstreet and online

Product (cheapest price) Duty Free £ High Street £ High Street Online £ Online
Chanel Coco Eau De Parfum 50ml £63.20 £79 The Perfume Shop £78.50 Amazon
Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium Eau De Parfum 50ml £58.90 £62 Boots £61.90 Amazon

Mens fragrance duty free prices compared to highstreet and online

Product (cheapest price) Duty Free £ High Street £ High Street Online £ Online
Paco Rabanne 1 Million EDT 50ml £39.39 £44.50 The Perfume Shop £40.49 Amazon
Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio EDT 50ml £43.35 £55 The Perfume Shop £48.13 Amazon

Sunglasses duty free prices compared to highstreet and online

Product (cheapest price) Duty Free £ High Street £ High Street Online £ Online
Prada PR 08OS £130.20 £217 Sunglass Hut £150.69 Amazon
Oakley Frogskins OO9013 £87.50 £85 Sunglass Hut £67.66 Amazon

Suncream duty free prices compared to highstreet and online

Product (cheapest price) Duty Free £ High Street £ High Street Online £ Online
P20 Once a day SPF 20 200ml £22.55 £20 Boots £14.65 Amazon
Lancaster Sun Beauty Satin Sheen Oil SPF 30 150ml £22.70 £24 Next £24 Amazon
Clarins Dry Touch Facial Sun Care SPF 50 50ml £17.30 £20 Debenhams £17.70 Amazon

Confectionery duty free prices compared to highstreet and online

Product (cheapest price) Duty Free £ High Street £ High Street Online £ Online
Toblerone 360g £4 £3.50 Morrisons £5.39 Amazon
M&Ms 250g £3.75 £2 Asda / Morrisons £2.68 Amazon
Cadbury Dairy Milk Oreo 300g £5 £3 Tesco £3.49 Amazon

Toys duty free prices compared to highstreet and online

Product (cheapest price) Duty Free £ High Street £ High Street Online £ Online
Lego Mythical Creatures £10.83 £12.99 Argos £12.97 Amazon

Skincare duty free prices compared to highstreet and online

Product (cheapest price) Duty Free £ High Street £ High Street Online £ Online
Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair 50ml £63.30 £78 Boots £76 Amazon
Clarins Double Serum 30ml £48.30 £58 Debenhams £62.95 Amazon
Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream SPF 30 50ml  £70.80 £85 John Lewis £85 Amazon

Make-up duty free prices compared to highstreet and online

Product (cheapest price) Duty Free £ High Street £ High Street Online £ Online
Urban Decay Naked Heat Palette £34.95 £31.50 Debenhams £49.45 Amazon
Mac Lipstick Velvet Teddy £14.55 £17.50 John Lewis £18.60 Amazon
Estee Lauder Double Wear 30ml £27.90 £34 Boots £35.75 Amazon
 
* High street prices compared from the UK’s leading supermarket chains and other major retailers
** Online prices based on Amazon.co.uk prices, excluding delivery charges (where appropriate)
*** Duty Free prices based on World Duty Free prices available at the following locations in the UK

UK Airports with World Duty Free stores

Phil Partridge
Posted: August 01, 2019 by Phil Partridge
About the Author -

Travel writer, car rental guru, Phil has rented cars all over the world and shares his knowledge and experience on the Rhinocarhire.com Blog. Favourite country to visit: France.

Last updated: Thursday, June 11, 2020
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