Duty Free Isn’t Just About Price

Whenever the discussion or media coverage turns to airport shopping, the main focus is usually on price.

But aside from price, airports have other things going for them, as well. However, they’re not always great at telling you about them, either in advance or even when you’re at the airport. So, you might ask – what are they?



In an attempt to improve the value, both real and perceived, of Duty Free and Travel Retail, the industry has developed products and offers which are exclusively available to travellers.  You’ll see them under various names.

Duty Free Exclusives

Glenlivet Duty Free Exclusives



Travel Retail Exclusives

Masi Travel Retail Exclusives



Travel Exclusives

Copenhagen Travel Exclusives


Traveller Exclusives

Ballantine's Traveller Exclusives

They’re often appealing, but you need to keep an eye out for them, since they’re not always prominently presented.



Promotions are a big part of the Duty Free & Travel Retail Business, be they temporary discounts, multi-purchase offers, gifts with purchase, product tastings, in-store demonstrators, etc., and some of them are communicated online.  It’s worth checking them out, whether you do it in advance or at the airport.

Frankfurt In Store

Duty Free Johnnie Walker Promotion


Product Choice

There’s also the question of choice. The range of fragrance, cosmetics, spirits (particularly single malts), and cigars at major airports is usually pretty extensive and larger than what you’d find outside big cities. Moreover, Duty Free is a major showcase for fragrances, where new brands are often launched first.

Duty Free Displays Image


Local Products

Over the last few years, airports have been trying hard to develop what they call “A sense of place,” and not just with their food and beverage proposition.   A major part of this is the prominent presentation of local products, either in existing stores or in specialized shops.

Warsaw Store

Personally, I find this one of the most appealing aspects of today’s airport offer, especially in countries which have a rich local heritage.


It’s Also the Shopping Environment

If price were the only criterion for shopping, then the vast range of stores we now have in our home countries wouldn’t exist. While their numbers are declining, nice stores and appealing retail environments still attract shoppers, even if they might not be the cheapest places to buy.

Singapore Changi Duty Free Environment

That applies to Duty Free and Travel Retail as well. A lot of airports, particularly the bigger ones, have terrific shopping environments which equal or surpass what you’ll find at home – especially places like Dubai, Singapore, and London Heathrow.


And Retail Theater

The Beirut Airport Cigar Experience

Beirut Airport Cigar Experience

A great example of retail theater which is close to my heart is Beirut Airport’s La Casa del Habano cigar shop which is really more of an experience than a store. It’s 450 square meters in size and beautifully appointed. The range of cigars is enormous – and the prices are very good.   If you’re lucky enough (or a really big spender) to get access to the VIP lounge, it’s really worth coming early to the airport to enjoy the experience. If you’re a cigar smoker, it’s a must visit.