Duty free style shoppers are younger, more impulsive & price advantage savvy

By Faye Bartle |

Anna Marchesini

Anna Marchesini, Head of Business Development, m1nd-set.

A younger generation of shoppers is characterising the fashion, accessories, watches and jewellery category in duty free, according to the latest insights by m1nd-set.

Indeed, the profile of fashion & accessories (FA) and watches & jewellery (WJ) shoppers in duty free has undergone some notable shifts since the pandemic.

Looking at gender balance, the latest category data from Swiss research agency m1nd-set reveals that the share of men purchasing products in these categories in duty free has stabilised in 2023, after registering a peak in 2022.

“In 2023, the share of males represents approximately six in 10 shoppers, yet remains above pre-Covid levels,” said Anna Marchesini, Head of Business Development, m1nd-set.

“The direction is potentially moving closer to a 50/50 split of men and women, as it was in the years before the pandemic.”

In terms of age segments, the share of senior travellers has significantly decreased compared to pre-Covid (from 23% in 2017-Q1 2020 to 10% in 2023 for FA and from 19% to 3% for WJ). In tandem, other groups have emerged.

“The share of Gen Z shoppers in 2023 has doubled compared to pre-Covid,” revealed Marchesini. “Furthermore, millennials have also increased versus pre-pandemic levels, albeit by a smaller scale.

“Overall, a younger generation of shoppers is characterising duty free, and FAWJ in particular.”


Leisure travellers still represent the majority of buyers. However, the share of WJ shoppers travelling for business has increased by 9% versus pre-Covid times, representing a third (34%) of all shoppers in 2023.

Drilling down on the path to purchase shows that visits to FAWJ stores in duty free are often unplanned.

“Shoppers are likely to be browsing around driven by curiosity,” said Marchesini. “Compared to pre-Covid times, a higher share of FA visitors is attracted by the duty free store design or outlook and therefore decide to browse.

Looking for promotions is also a key factor behind footfall in both categories.” Indeed, a higher share (27%) now purchase FA completely on impulse compared to pre-Covid.

Most shoppers in the category (48%) plan only to some extent (as general planners or undecided shoppers) but make the final decision inside the store.This highlights the importance of experiential retail in driving more conversion.

“Slightly different is the outlook for WJ, for which purchases are more likely to be planned specifically, compared to FA, up to a brand and product level,” said Marchesini. “In this case, information gathered before the trip is key in guiding decision-making.”


That said, an important share (66%, adding impulse shoppers and those who plan generally) decide in-store.

“Adopting an omni-channel approach is therefore key to communicating with shoppers throughout the whole trip, from preparation stage to in-store behaviour,” advised Marchesini.

As may be expected, good value for money is and remains the number one driver to purchase.

“Finding a price advantage versus other channels is an important factor in deciding to purchase WJ and this is increasing versus pre-Covid,” she explained.

Being in the know about trends, online and offline, is reflected in the fact that finding a trendy brand is among the top five drivers to purchase.

“Finally, as ‘self-indulgence’ characterises the post-Covid duty free world, the quest for a treat is also relevant within FAWJ,” added Marchesini. “A key characteristic of the channel is also to bring back a FAWJ item as a souvenir or memory from the trip, especially for FA, and this is where local touch can play a substantial role.”

In line with this, own consumption is the main purpose behind purchases of both categories – a factor that has stabilised compared to pre-Covid times.

This is at the expense of gifting which has lost out in importance, delivering at least a quarter of purchases nowadays.

Looking at why FA and WJ shoppers are choosing duty free for their purchases versus other channels shows that finding lower prices is a key appeal factor, along with convenience, a wider choice, the amount of time available and service level.

“For FA shoppers, buying a product that is suitable as a souvenir or memory from the trip is also particularly relevant, whereas among WJ shoppers the guaranteed authenticity of products and assortment only available in duty free stands out particularly,” said Marchesini. “Overall, on top of value, convenience and time – the ‘ABC’ of the industry – providing an assortment that is exclusive and particular to duty free brings more travellers to choose travel retail over online or the local market.”


In terms of influencing factors, the majority of WJ shoppers in particular (who are more likely to plan specifically) notice or research information about duty free products before purchasing.

“Exposure to touchpoints throughout the whole trip can therefore have a major impact,” she said. “Online remains the key source of information, yet information collected inside the duty free store is also often mentioned.”

The data shows that around six in 10 shoppers interact with the staff, and the vast majority are influenced by this – a share that is growing compared to pre-Covid.

“This highlights the importance of increasing the proactivity of staff to further boost interaction and finally leverage their positive impact on decision-making, especially among those who make the final purchase decision in-store,” imparted Marchesini.

Products perceived as duty free exclusives are also chosen by the vast majority.

Added Marchesini: “An important share also buy products never purchased before (first time buyers), yet the brand can be a familiar one, highlighting the openness to novelties and different assortment versus the local market.”

This feature first appeared in the TRBusiness June/July 2024 issue.

READ MORE: TR Consumer Forum 2024 : Peter Mohn delivers opening address in Dubai

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