Sky-high prices at duty-free shops?

Duty-free shopping in Singapore can offer some great deals

Airport shopping

Almost all international trips call for a visit to duty-free shops, especially if there’s plenty of time to kill before boarding your flight. Time and time again, travellers shop duty-free with the confidence that they’re bagging great deals.

But are these duty-free shops really the shopping havens we think them to be? To help debunk (or confirm) the duty-free myth, we analysed 18 products across 6 categories – spirits, wine, skincare, makeup, perfume and chocolate – to see if they’re actually cheaper duty-free.

What’s cheaper duty-free?

According to our analysis, you can continue buying spirits, wine, skincare products, makeup and perfume at duty-free stores with peace of mind.

Spirits offer the greatest savings overall, with an average saving of 55% when you shop duty-free. For instance, a bottle of Bacardi will cost more than double if you purchase it at a retail store. It’s just $23 duty-free, but it’ll set you back between $50-79 if you purchase it in-store ($64.50 on average).

Some duty-free spirit purchases are an even better deal and well worth spending the time to shop. For example, you can purchase a bottle of Aberlour A’bunadh for $120.50 duty-free as opposed to around $431.50 in retail stores. That’s 72% more expensive than if you were to purchase it at the airport and will see you with an extra $311 in your pocket.

You can also make great savings buying wine (24%), makeup (16%), skincare (13%) and perfume (10%). For example, a bottle of Huge Boss perfume will set you back close to $130 when you purchase from a retail store, but by shopping duty-free, you can snag it for just $115.

What’s more expensive duty-free?

We hate to be the bearer of bad news for chocoholics, but you may want to rethink your duty-free shop if you’re there mainly for sweets. Our findings show that, on average, purchasing chocolates duty-free actually costs you 25% more than in retail stores.

The most expensive chocolate markup in our analysis is for a bag of KitKat minis (48%). It’ll cost you $9.80 duty-free and approximately $3.20 less if you opt to buy at retail stores instead.

Luckily, not all chocolates cost significantly more. If you’re really having some last-minute chocolate cravings before your flight, a Ritter Sport Whole Hazelnut bar shouldn’t set you back too much. It costs $3.78 in retail stores and $3.80 duty-free. That’s just a 0.7% difference, so might as well, right?

The moral of the story

What our research shows is that it’s important to always do your research before shopping duty-free, especially for higher value purchases. While we definitely uncovered some price trends, there are exceptions to every rule and you don’t want to get stung by making an assumption and paying more than you should

Methodology

We took product prices from two duty-free stores in Changi Airport – DFS and iShopChangi. Duty-free product prices were averaged using the price from both stores where possible. If the product was not available at both stores, we used the price from iShopChangi. Where prices were on sale, we used the original listed price rather than the discounted price.

We then compared duty-free prices to retail prices. We found the average of two online listed prices for two physical stores. Again, no sale prices were used for the retail prices. We used the cheapest found online, meaning the prices here may not be the same at all retailers.
Prices were recorded on four days – 6, 7, 10 and 11 February 2020.

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