The Doom of Duty Free

by Staff Written

July 8, 2016 at 10:22 am

I recently read this article on Quartz about how people are spending less money at duty-free shops at airports. For those who aren’t familiar, duty-free shops are “retail outlets that are exempt from the payment of certain local or national taxes and duties, on the requirement that the goods sold will be sold to travelers who will take them out of the country.” (source: It used to feel like you’re getting a stellar deal.

So why the drop in sales? Quartz reports that this could be directly related to the fact that travelers are hung up in security lines and don’t have as much shopping time. I have a different theory.

We have a weekly editorial meeting for 52&Mad, and I had to laugh at how I pitched this blog idea: “I read this article about how duty-free shops in airports are taking a hit in sales this year. I think I know why… the Internet!” – Said me, non-ironically.

Though my pitch skills are lacking, I stand by what I said. With e-commerce sites such as Amazon,, and auction sites, the idea of finding that amazing deal is no longer a rarity.

According to Quartz, the products taking the biggest hit are pricey watches and jewelry, with sales dipping more than 13.2%. However, fragrance and cosmetic sales actually grew by 2%. This makes sense if you apply my theory. When consumers are buying fragrances and cosmetics, they typically like trying them on IRL (that’s “in real life,” for you nature lovers). Watches and jewelry are easy to buy online and often have the highest price reductions.

Fear not, duty-free shops, I have a possible solution! With beacon technology such as LightHousePETM duty free shops can tap into the airport schedule and use it to their advantage. Flight delayed? Stop by for some premium alcohol. Flying to Paris? This scarf is trending in France — grab one before you go!

Point is, instead of whining about possible security lines hurting business, change with the times, duty-free shops! Make duty-free shopping sexy again. Your wallets will thank you.

July 8, 2016 at 10:22 am

Staff Written