Duty Free Perfume, Cosmetics and Beauty Products London Heathrow airport.

Published by The Duty Free Advisor: Editor on 2012-07-18

The purchase of perfumes, cosmetics and beauty products in the travel retail market is such an in-demand subject that we are providing key specific information with some questions and answers, for those coming to London this summer.

What can I buy when I arrive at the airport?  There are some shops in the arrivals areas of all Britain's airports, where mainly perfumes and some make-up products can be purchased. In view of the limited space in the arrival areas, the product selection is not extensive and the personal service is limited, compared to the airside departure duty free areas. The products you buy on arrival may be described as "tax-free" or "tax free equivalent prices". In other words, they are sold at competitive prices compared to normal High Street stores, but arrival goods are not actually tax or duty free. Likewise, it is a good idea to compare the size of the products you are buying as often domestic prices can appear to be cheaper, but the pack size is sometimes smaller.

Does the Tax Refund Tax-Free Shopping Scheme apply to Perfumes and Cosmetics?  In theory no. The strict letter of the UK Customs rules state that goods applicable to the scheme for tax free refunds must be exported unused and intact. In other words, if you buy goods in London and wish to claim back the sales tax (VAT) when you leave, you must show the unopened goods to Customs at the airport, before your check-in and depart. For this reason it may be better to buy some perfume, cosmetics or beauty products at the airport, when you leave the country. Airport sales, for those departing to a non-EU Country, are already tax-free net prices in the terminal and this removes the complexity of trying to re-claim the tax. Perfumes, Cosmetics and Beauty products do not have "Excise Duty" on them in Britain, so they should not really be called Duty Free products, just "Tax-Free".

Where can I buy Perfumes and Cosmetics in Downtown London? Go to Oxford Street west of Oxford Circus and rather like the famous London Monopoly game.. "don't pass go, don't collect £200!"  In English slang, this means, do not go anywhere else, go straight there and only there! Why, because in a one mile stretch you have every store, every brand and every treatment you can imagine in the beauty market. The big department stores like Selfridges or Debenhams have entire floors the size of a football pitch dedicated to beauty product sales. All the major Brands such as M.A.C YSL, Chanel, Revlon etc etc can be found in these department stores and shopping centres. London shopping is so competitive that prices are good wherever you shop, be it in the airport or Downtown.

One exception to the above are well known drugstores such as Boots the Chemist or Superdrug. Both these retailers have many stores throughout London and Britain and they sell many well known and also discounted cosmetic and beauty products. They are not so strong on perfumes though.

Do Perfumes and Cosmetics fall into the airline liquid security category?  Yes, be careful with what you carry though an airport and onto a flight. All these beauty products are regarded as "liquids or gels" and are limited to maximum sizes, (normally 100ml or 100grams), when passing through airport security checks. If you buy downtown, make sure your goods are packed in your hold baggage, so you have no problem. But, if you travel with only carryon baggage you may have a problem if your purchases are packed individually in a larger size than the security allowance. If you buy in an airport, from the duty free shops, your goods should be packed in a special sealed transparent shopping bag known as a "STEB Bag". Generally speaking, these bags give you free transit with these goods to most countries. But, if you are changing planes in transit at an airport, especially in the USA, you will have a problem. The only real answer to this is to try to pack your goods in hold-checked baggage, so to avoid these difficulties.

check before you fly at www.dutyfreeonarrival.com