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Pricing study claims online retailers offer better value than tax free

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Goods at European airports are on average -6.2% cheaper than those in local high street stores, based on a selected basket of goods. Crucially, the study focuses on tax free shopping (free of VAT) for travellers whose journeys start and end within the EU, rather than duty free shopping (free of VAT and excise duty).

According to Kelkoo's latest study, produced by the Centre for Retail Research, consumers at European airports spent over £2.5 billion last year, making savings of -6.2% (£168 million) compared to standard high street prices on the equivalent items. However, by shopping online for the same goods, consumers could have saved a further -6.1% (£156 million) – a total saving of -12% (£324 million) over high street stores, Kelkoo claimed.

A mystery shopping exercise was carried out for a representative basket of 22 products with a strong pan-European sales footprint, spanning five 'categories' (health & beauty; luxury, fashion & electrical; wines & spirits; tobacco; fine foods & confectionery), and prices were gathered from European airport tax free retail outlets and online retailers.

These prices were then benchmarked against the average RRP for the same goods in local high street stores. The ten airports selected for the purpose of the study represent a sample of European countries and accounted for 80% of European passenger traffic in 2009.

Kelkoo UK Managing Director Bruce Fair said: "Airports create the perfect environment for shopping, as people have time to kill, a holiday feel-good-factor, and extra cash in their pockets. However they don't always create the most competitive environment for prices, and 11 years on from the end of duty free there is still the perception that tax free shopping offers the best deals."

He went on to claim: "In reality, higher overheads, decreased competition and less choice means that tax free shops are not always the hunting ground for bargains that people think they are. In fact, airside retailers simply cannot compete with online retail for the best prices."

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