Duty Free Airport ShoppingAirport Duty Free Shopping ….

Every year more and more of us are travelling. Whether on business or holiday, a City Break or a three month adventure, our passion for travel knows no bounds. And, with new aircraft such as the A380 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner coming onstream, the emergence of ever larger and more sophisticated airports, and massive investment globally into developing tourism infrastructure, we are travelling further and further afield – and getting their faster. True, with the current credit crunch and global economic difficulties, we are likely to reduce our travel over the next 12 months or so. But long term the picture is bright. International travel is set to double by 2020.

In Dubai, for example, the new Al Maktoum airport due to open in 2017, is expected to accommodate 75 million passengers, while China is planning to open 100 new airports by 2020.And what do we like to do when we travel? Shop! We like to shop en-route to where we’re going, while we’re away and when we’re on the way back. First stop is the airport and the last 20 years has seen an incredible transformation of the retail offer, from ‘pile it high, sell it cheap’ stores to sophisticated outlets and boutiques selling the world’s leading luxury brands that would not look out of place in London, Paris, Milan or New York. Shopping at airports today is not just about grabbing a duty free bargain (although you can!) but about a complete travel experience that enhances your journey.

Airport Duty Free ShoppingAs well as the traditional duty free products that were at the root of airport shopping – liquor, tobacco and perfume (History Page) – travellers can now buy just about everything and anything from laptops to lipstick, handbags to hair dryers, caviar to chocolate, ties to tvs. While you’re there you can (depending on the airport) get your makeup done, buy a new pair of shoes, checkout the latest in technology, enter a raffle to win a sports car, and taste a few new brands of vodka, whisky or maybe a liqueur or two! Increasingly, you’ll find brands and products that are exclusive to travellers (in other words you can’t buy them on the High Street); some airports now even have their own brands, ranging from fashion to alcohol.It all adds up to big business and every year we spend billions on duty and tax free goods (commonly known these days as travel retail shopping and, in parts of Europe as Travel Value shopping) of which airports account for over half – and they are expected to become even more influential as more and more of us take to the skies. A lot of that growth will come from the Middle and Far East, particularly as growing middle classes in emergent countries such as China and India, plus a liberalisation of policies encouraging travel, see a massive increase in passenger traffic from these areas. In 2007 Chinese tourists spent an estimated US$30bn overseas, a good chunk of which was at airports. It’s no wonder that well known brands want to be present in airports these days!

Dubai Duty Free Shopping
Of course the shopping you’ll find at airports does vary from country to country in terms of the size of shops and range of goods on offer. Older airports, where space is limited, will not offer as good a range as newer airports and those which have been able to expand their existing terminals and add new ones. But pretty much wherever you travel these days, you’ll see some kind of expansion going on and when a new terminal or airport opens, you can guarantee that retail shopping – airside and landside – will play a much greater role than in the past. Some airports really do stand out for their duty free and tax free shopping; Dubai Duty Free is one example. In 2011 travellers spent US$1.46bn at the airport! In fact, throughout the Middle East • and particularly the UAE – you will find superb airport shopping.

Dubai Duty Free has set many trends in retail shopping, not least being the first airport to offer travellers the chance to win top of the range cars through a raffle. This has now been picked up by several airports around the world (yes you too could go on holiday for a fortnight and come back the proud owner of a Ferrari!). But not many others have emulated DDF’s Multi Millionaire raffle which offered US$5m as the first prize! At a more modest level, you’ll find plenty of competitions and prize draws to enter at airports, either in conjunction with a specific brand or retail outlet.

Old Bazaar duty free at Ataturk Airport

It’s hard to pick out the best of the best, but certainly worth mentioning are London Heathrow new Terminal 5Stockholm ArlandaIstanbul Ataturk, Beijing Capitals new T3, Cyprus’ Pafos, Dubai Duty Free T3 and Singapores Changi T3. You may have your own opinion – we’d love to hear from you.What do we want to buy there? Statistics show we are buying more and more perfume and cosmetics, confectionery and fine food, and we’re also increasingly prepared to get out our credit cards for luxury goods such as handbags, fine jewellery, classic watches and leathergoods.

We still want to be able to buy our bargain priced tobacco and spirits, but we’re more inclined to use the opportunity to ‘trade up’ to premium lines that we wouldn’t usually splash out on. In an ideal world travellers would benefit from a duty free comparison website, but many have been tried before and have proven to be inaccurate. Most fail to differentiate between destination duty free arrival and departure allowances or establish updated prices and availability with the core brands. There are a host of “coming soon” duty free apps for airports, but to date we feel unable to recommend any.

Increasingly, too, we want to buy a specific souvenir of where we’ve been and you’ll find a growing number of destination outlets appearing at airports, as they strive to move away from being international and impersonal and create a true ‘sense of place’. Examples are the ‘Out of Africa’ concept at Johannesburg and Cape Town airports and the ‘Old Bazaar’ at Ataturk in Istanbul.Whatever the short term difficulties in the world’s economy, millions of us will continue to travel and use airports internationally and domestically. Passenger numbers may fall over the next year or two, but that means that retailers and suppliers will be working even harder to persuade us to spend money, offering better value, more innovative and exclusive products, and ever improving service. That’s got to be good news.

Duty Free Shopping on ArrivalDuty Free Arrivals Shopping at AirportsIncreasingly you can not only buy duty and tax free items on departure at airports, but also on arrival.

In some countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Iceland, and the UAE, you can purchase a full range of goods immediately before going through Customs – so allowances all still apply. (You can’t buy your allowance at your departure airport and then buy it again when you arrive at your destination!) Certainly this can solve the problem of purchasing liquids (wines and spirits !in particular) if you have not come on a direct route. In Copenhagen, for example, you can purchase perfume and cosmetics, beer, wine and confectionery on arrival at a shop in the baggage reclaim area. Arrivals shops also opened in Pudong International airport, Shanghai, and Beijing Capital International airport in time for the Beijing Olympics.

In the UK, World Shopping stores at Heathrow, Gatwick, Edinburgh and Glasgow can be found just after Customs, prior to exiting into the landside area of the airport. These are quite small, but still offer a good range of wines and Champagne, fragrances and gifts which can be purchased in over 22 currencies.

In some airports you can also purchase on departure but leave the goods and pick them up when you return; this is particularly good for bulky items that you may not want to lug half way round the world!

Not all governments will permit arrivals shopping. Canadian airports have been lobbying government to change the law and allow arrivals shopping for some time.