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Airport retail therapy – the best airports for duty free

Once you’ve checked in and offloaded your baggage, you’ll have some spare time airside. You could plug in your laptop and get on with some work or indulge in a variety of refreshments; however, the lure of a vibrant shopping mall is frequently too much of a distraction. In this article, Artemis Aerospace investigates some of the best airports in which to buy before you fly.

For many people, a leisurely wander round an airport shopping mall is as much a part of the journey as the flight itself. For retailers, a captive audience in a holiday mood is likely to be the kind of customer they want. Time and routine are thrown out of the window; people drink beer for breakfast, buy hats they are unlikely ever to wear again and are generally much more receptive to the idea of spending. Serious shoppers with an eye for a bargain can often hunt one out, and the possibilities for duty free alcohol, cosmetics, fragrances, luxury goods and tobacco are legion, particularly if a bit of research is undertaken beforehand.

Some airports have very little in the way of retail opportunities. If you’re a keen shopper it can be rather disappointing to find your purchasing prospects are limited to a magazine, a bottle of water and a few uninteresting snacks. But in the larger airports, shopping malls are glittering temples to merchandising with high end brands tempting the passer-by to indulge. We’ve put together a list of six which should give any passenger a memorable shopping experience before they take off.

London Heathrow Airport

Placed fourth in the Skytrax Best Airport Shopping Award 2023, Heathrow, with 62 outlets, promises an exciting few hours of browsing. You can check out Aspinal of London or Bulgari for designer bags, buy a watch at Cartier, Rolex or Tiffany or boost your holiday wardrobe with a little number from Prada. There are branches of Harrods and Fortnum & Mason should you require some upmarket refreshment, and even a Harry Potter shop in case your wand requires an upgrade. If you want to make the most of every minute, you can pre-book a personal shopping service.

Hong Kong International Airport

If you feel stressed when you arrive at HKIA, you can head for one of the two Waterfall Gardens, an interactive multimedia ecosystem with plant life, ponds, and waterfalls. Once recharged, among the 280 shops, Versace, Ferragamo and Jimmy Choo beckon, along with Hong Kong jewellery brand Chow Tai Fook. If you’re exhausted after all this and need a little pick-me-up, you can head to the Oriental Massage Centre for a relaxing head, shoulder and foot massage. The ideal way to begin a long journey!

Dubai International Airport

The UAE is globally renowned for its designer shopping, and the airport is particularly known for its duty free electronics and technology retail opportunities. Dubai Duty Free store will sell you a laptop or mobile, a power bank if you forgot your charger, or even a drone, should you feel the need to undertake some aviation of your own! Cosmetics are also a canny purchase here, and you can customise a bottle of perfume at the Guerlain pop-up in Terminal 3 for a perfect present. As an extra bonus, if you’ve been sitting in a plane for hours, all passengers passing through Dubai are entitled to use of the swimming pool at the Dubai International Hotel.

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

Schiphol is another airport which tries to de-stress the travelling experience; you can seat yourself in one of seven Massage-O-Matic chairs for a five-minute Shiatsu massage, while listening to calming music and watching relaxing images on a screen. Re-energised, you can find good prices on beauty and fashion products from retailers such as Gucci, Burberry and Bottega Veneta. Visit Old Amsterdam for a wide selection of Dutch cheeses, which are vacuum-packed ready to go in your hand luggage. And, of course, you shouldn’t leave without buying a chocolate windmill – the ultimate in edible souvenirs!

JFK International Airport

The eight terminals at JFK offer a multitude of shops including Brooks Brothers, Hermes and Victoria’s Secret. You can also browse an eclectic selection of items from the Metropolitan Museum of Art outlet, or stock up for a beach break at Ron Jon’s Surf Shop. If the lure of the open road attracts you, you can hire a Harley Davison from the airport concession and head off or make your way to the Be Relax Spa for a quick boost; choose from a hot stone massage, special oxygen treatment or even an ‘anti-jet-lag’ facial.

Changi International Airport, Singapore

Named World’s Best Airport in the 2023 Skytrax World Airport Awards, and also scooping third place in the Best Airport Shopping category, Changi Airport is a retail paradise. With more than 350 shops, Changi has an enterprising approach to retail and has a regular selection of pop-ups, such as last year’s partnership between the House of Suntory and Lotte Duty Free which showcased the art of Japanese whisky and craftsmanship. This year Disney-themed retail experiences paid tribute to nearly 100 years of Walt Disney. For relaxation, Changi’s Terminal 4 features 20,000 plant species in a vast green wall, which is said to help improve air quality in the terminal and lower the temperature – a peaceful way to unwind before embarking an aircraft.

Even a short stopover at any of these airports is likely to make a dent in your wallet, so as you saunter through one of these dynamic shopping environments, be prepared to buy till you board!