The only thing you should buy duty-free

Duty-free shops at airports remind me a lot of the 1970s. They’re gaudy, they’re in your face, and they were a good idea 50 years ago but are more questionable now.

OK, I’m exaggerating, but only slightly. The heyday of duty-free shopping has long passed.

One reason is that the level of duty charged is actually much lower than it was back when ABBA reigned supreme. (Actually, ABBA still reign supreme, but I digress.)

The introduction of the GST in Australia back in 2000 meant that many existing duties and import charges were removed. As a result, savings at the airport are nowhere near as impressive as they used to be.

An even bigger game changer has been online shopping. Why pick something up at the airport, and have to lug it for the rest of your trip, when you can have it delivered to your door for less?

IS BUYING DUTY-FREE WORTH IT?

THE AIRPORT BARGAIN BETTER THAN DUTY-FREE

No real savings in the beauty department.Source:istock

But you don’t necessarily have to head online to reap those savings.

Analysis of duty-free pricing by Finder shows that in many categories, you’ll now pay more at the airport then you would buying at your local mall.

By far the worst offender is chocolate and confectionery. Grab a packet of Tim Tams at the airport for cousin Frida and you’ll potentially be charged $7. That’s a whopping 117 per cent mark-up on the regular supermarket price. Hang around for a special and you’ll save even more. So long duty free, hello Woolies and Coles.

Perfumes and makeup, one of the most visible duty-free product categories, are more lineball. In some cases, you’ll save between five and 10 per cent on the regular retail price. While that’s an OK saving, you’ll still probably find those products cheaper online, especially if you wait for a sale.

Discounts to be had in the liquor aisle of duty-free shopping.Source:News Corp Australia

So if you have to purchase an emergency fragrance on the way home to keep your partner sweet, you probably won’t end up out of pocket, but you won’t be able to boast about your frugal shopping skills.

There are just two categories where duty free turns out to be unquestionably cheaper: cigarettes and spirits.

I’m not a smoker, so I really don’t care about cheaper ciggies. And even if I did, duty-free limits mean that you can only bring in a maximum of 25 cigarettes.

That leaves spirits. In Finder’s research, a one-litre bottle of Absolut Vodka sold for $34.95 at duty free, but was $56.95 at retail. That’s a 38 per cent saving. While you’ll often see vodka go on sale, it’s rare for the discount to be as high as that.

The same pattern is seen across most spirits. It’s not the case with wine, however; that’s usually cheaper at the local bottleshop.

So when I next pass through duty-free, my only shopping goal will be refilling the spirits cabinet. Even then, there are restrictions to remember.

Under current law, you can’t bring in more than 2.25 litres duty free. So I’m topping up a couple of bottles at a time. Cheers!

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Angus Kidman is the editor-in-chief and travel guru for Finder.

Originally published as The only thing you should buy duty-free

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