For the fashionista, a well-stocked duty free area can offer an excellent chance to get deals on luxury items, even outside of sales periods. Indeed, for a very few high end brands that never go on sale (such as certain Chanel, Hermès or Louis Vuitton items), duty free may be one of the very few opportunities to get a discount.
I recently flew through London Heathrow Terminal 3 and nabbed a Louis Vuitton Keepall Bandouliere for £808, a significant savings off the current £970 retail price. In the process of getting my bag, I picked up a few tips about how to make the most of duty free shopping at Heathrow:
1. Plan your shopping ahead, starting by looking at the shops on the Heathrow website to find out if your favourite brands are there. Be sure to take note of the terminal that you are flying from as many brands are only in some of the terminals (note there is a way around this issue, described below). You also need to be flying to a destination outside the EU to get the best deals.
2. If you want a particular item, telephone the store directly in the weeks leading up to your flight and see if they can reserve it for you. Many shops will even be happy to pre-order an item that they may not normally keep in stock.
3. Be sure to ask what the duty free price of the item is to find out if the savings are worth the trouble. It’s also worth checking on the internet to see if the item is any cheaper in your destination country (with a US price tag of $1,720 (approximately £1,130) before tax, my travel destination was definitely not the place to buy my Louis Vuitton bag).
I was flying out of Terminal 3, and Louis Vuitton only has a boutique in Terminal 5. However, Heathrow’s excellent Personal Shopping Service came to my rescue. Here’s how it works:
1. Contact the service via their website at least 48 hours before your flight and tell them what you are interested in buying.
2. The service is totally free.
3. A personal shopper will make arrangements to meet you in the terminal and assist you with your shopping, for example by identifying items that may be of interest to you.
If the terminal that you are flying through doesn’t have the boutique that you are interested in, the personal shopper can take you to another terminal for shopping (note that you need at least three hours to do this). Alternately, if you contact the store and pay for the item in advance, the personal shopper may be able to bring the item to you without your having to visit the other terminal.
In my case, I contacted Louis Vuitton in advance and paid for my bag a few days before my trip. I had an early morning flight and did not want to spend the extra time going to Terminal 5, but my excellent personal shopper, Laura Varela, met me with the bag in Terminal 3. Laura then saved me some time at Cath Kidston by helping me to pick out a birthday gift for my step-mother. Laura’s taste was excellent and my step-mother was delighted with her bag. There was no sales pressure at all, just helpful advice and suggestions. I also received triple Heathrow Reward points because I used the shopping service.
Laura mentioned that Heathrow has a duty free shopping lounge in Terminal 2, and that one is coming in Terminal 5 soon. She also said that Terminal 5 in general had the widest shopping options, so it may be worth taking the time to do a terminal transfer if you want to make some serious purchases.
I definitely will be using the Heathrow Personal Shopping Service again in future. The experience was enjoyable and hassle-free, it helped me to save time and money, and it got my holiday off to a great start.
David Fincher is a London-based lawyer and budding fashionista.