A Secret No Longer: Knowing When the Price is Right (and Wrong) in Duty Free

Travel retail and general retail price comparison app Jessica’s Secret is committed to telling Chinese consumers where the best – and worst – duty-free price deals exist, according to Founder, Chairman and CEO Mirko Wang.

In response to user requests on Jessica’s Secret’s Chinese-language service, one of its additions – and most appealing features – is clear price guidance showing ‘the lowest price in the world’ and ‘high price – do not buy’ based on currently available data.

In a follow-up to his recent exclusive interview with The Moodie Davitt Report, Wang said: “This is an important function. We can tell tourists what and where to buy by showing them the cheapest in the world and the most expensive in the world and therefore what not to buy.”

The lowest and highest prices worldwide are usually shown on the front page of the search results for any product, followed by the country markets that are the cheapest, to the most expensive (see images). This is based on pricing data and locations available to Jessica’s Secret at the time.

“We show the tax-free price as this is the true price that Chinese tourists pay, so this is the reference. It includes any published discounts from retailers, including discount vouchers available from our own site. We also show the full (tax-paid) price so that the user can compare the difference,” said Wang.

In the case of SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence – among the most searched products on the app – China was the cheapest country in the world to buy the product according to Jessica’s Secret search conducted last week. It was available for CNY1,194 (US$195) at Sunrise Duty Free. The most expensive market was Japan where TIAT duty-free stores had the item available for CNY1,519 (US$248).

Last week SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence was cheapest to buy at Sunrise Duty Free and most expensive in the Japanese duty free market. Photo: The Moodie Davitt Report

Last week SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence was cheapest to buy at Sunrise Duty-Free and most expensive in the Japanese duty-free market. Photo: The Moodie Davitt Report

The large variations can be due to a myriad of factors including sell-in prices in a different currency to the local market, margin structures, concession fees, and the exchange rate at the time of purchase. Travelers, however, are only interested in the price they pay, Wang says.

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Best value is product-specific

Jessica’s Secret is keen to point out that the low and high prices are product-based and not indicative of the value of a duty-free store or chain per se. “According to our analysis, it is difficult to simply say ‘this duty-free shop is cheap, and that duty-free shop is expensive’, Wang commented. “From our database, some products in a duty-free shop are cheap with the lowest prices in the world. Others in the same shop are very expensive and the highest in the world.”

‘Transparency is inevitable’

When The Moodie Davitt Report asked Wang if there was any push-back from duty-free retailers to making their pricing known to travelers in a single app, he commented: “That’s a very interesting question. We’ve seen different reactions. Many cooperate with us but some are reluctant to publish because their prices are not that attractive. However, our retailer relationships are increasing all the time.

“All our prices are honest – and we believe that transparency is inevitable. The trend is unavoidable,” added Wang.

Exchange rates simplified

As well as price comparison, Jessica’s Secret’s team of developers has added other useful functionality that is beneficial to Chinese travelers when paying. Fluctuating exchange rates at the time of making a duty free purchase mean it is not always easy to decide which payment service is best to use.

Wang says: “There are three main methods of payment among Chinese tourists: UnionPay, WeChat, and Alipay, but their exchange rates are not the same. Jessica can tell users – at a precise moment – which payment method is the cheapest at their location.” This functionality is only available in the Chinese version of the app.

This story originally appears on The Moodie Davitt Report

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Shopping & Duty-Free