Are Luxury Brands Cheaper In Korea? All That You Need To Know
If you are heading to Korea anytime soon you may be wondering, are luxury brands cheaper in Korea? We’re here to answer that question and help you get the best deal!
Korea is a country well known for incredible food, beautiful views, and amazing skincare, but what is it like to shop for luxury products in Korea?
With the rising popularity of K-POP, it’s perhaps not surprising to note that now, almost all designer brands also have a Korean celebrity ambassador. As a result, CNBC has also reported that South Korean people spend the most amount of money per capita on luxury goods in the world, surpassing Chinese and American consumers.
With this in mind, you may be wondering if Korea offers something unique to the luxury shopper, perhaps more inventory or a cheaper price on luxury brands?
We are going to answer these questions, so you know the best brands to shop for, the must-visit shopping destinations, and what you need to do to get the best prices! We have also included some best-selling products from brands you need to pick up in Korea to give you a little inspiration for your next trip!
Are Luxury brands cheaper in Korea?
The annoying short answer is yes and no – it really depends on what you are shopping for, the brand you are looking for, and where you are traveling from.
With that said, most people are eligible to receive a 10% tax refund on their purchases up to 5,000,000 KRW ($3,800), which can translate to a big saving no matter where you travel from – more on this below.
With this said, certain luxury brands, like Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Hermès will not be cheaper in Korea because of the high demand for these brands in Korea and the global price harmonization that these brands are carrying out.
However, some luxury brands will be a little cheaper in Korea compared to the US, China, Singapore, the Middle East and the United Kingdom. (Plus, if you are traveling from Europe, even though the prices of products will likely be very similar, you can claim a 10% tax refund on purchases up to $3,800.)
For example, Gucci and Saint Laurent are some of the brands that are often a little more affordable in Korea – so if you have your eye on a Gucci or Saint Laurent bag, Korea is a great place to buy it. For example, here is a price comparison of the brand’s popular Jackie 1961 bag:
The small Gucci Jackie bag retails for ₩ 3,600,000 ($2,725) in Korea, while its price in the US is $2,950 + tax, £2,220 in the UK ($2,745), €2,500 in the Eurozone ($2,689), 23,500 Chinese Yuan ($3,300), and 12,850 AED ($3,500).
In addition to this, you will receive a 10% tax refund, as mentioned above.
How To Claim Your Tax Refund
As already mentioned, there is a tax refund system in place in Korea, meaning you get around 10% of the money you paid back, but it is limited to tax-free stores. These stores are signified by a ‘tax-free’ or ‘tax refund’ sticker so you know the best stores to shop in – we will list some of the stores you can visit below.
There are a few rules you need to know about before heading to Korea to make sure you can receive this tax refund.
The refund is only eligible to:
- Shoppers who are not permanent residents of South Korea
- Shoppers who are in Korea for less than 3 months
- Anyone not working for a Korean flight company
- Anyone who spends more than 30,000 KRW (this is equal to $22)
Note: The maximum amount of purchased goods eligible for tax refund is 5,000,000 won ($3,800) according to Visit Korea.
To receive your VAT refund, you need to make sure to have your passport on hand when you are shopping and ask the sales assistant for the Tax-Free shopping form that you will need to fill out before you can get any money back.
You can also get an immediate tax refund in the store, but this is only available for purchases under 500,000 KRW ($379) in one payment, and a total of 2,500,000 KRW ($1,907) during your star in Korea. You will have to ask the sales assistant for the tax refund while you are paying as the validation is done through the store.
If you have spent any more, you can receive the refund in cash or via your credit card at the airport VAT refund counters at Incheon International Airport or Gimhae International Airport. You need to have your tax-free form on hand, the receipt for your purchase and your passport to present at the counter for the officials to check then you will receive your 10% tax refund!
Brands That Are Always Cheaper In Korea
The luxury eyewear brand Gentle Monster is among the best brands to check out in Korea. Since this is a Korean brand, not only will the prices of products be cheaper, but the inventory of products will be greater as well.
Another category of products that is guaranteed to be cheaper in Korea than anywhere else in the world is K-Beauty products. These makeup and skincare products are often from Korean brands and are made in Korea, so they will be cheaper than they would be in America or Europe.
There are lots of great Korean beauty skincare brands that you could go for, including Cosrx, Banila Co., Mamonde, and Etude House, plus, oddly enough, you will often find that Christian Dior beauty products are a little more affordable in Korea than they are elsewhere in the world.
Other than these Korean brands, most luxury brands will not be cheaper than they are in Europe; this is due to the fact that most luxury brands are either French or Italian, and thus have the lowest prices in their home currency, the Euro. Plus, if you are a tourist, Europe offers some of the highest tax refund rates in the world; for example, Italy’s tax refund rate is up to 15.5%, depending on how much you spend.
Best places for Tax Free Shopping
There are lots of tax-free and duty-free shops throughout Korea so it’s easy to find stores to shop that will give you a tax refund on any purchases.
One of the best stores to visit is the Lotte department store, home to lots of high-end brands and Korean skincare brands – there are Lotte stores in Seoul, Myeong-Dong, Ansan, and Yeogdeungpo so it’s easy to find one nearby.
Garosugil is quickly becoming one of the most popular shopping destinations and plenty of stores in the area are tax-free.
Apgujeong is home to many of the flagship stores for foreign luxury brands including Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Christian Dior as well as the Galleria Department store which is a tax-free shop.
In-Sa Dong is a great place to head to if you want to pick up some Korean keepsakes, plus lots of the stores and beautiful boutiques are duty-free.
Products to pick up while you’re in Korea
These are the best brands to shop for while you are in Korea, and some of the best-selling products from these brands that you really need to add to your wish list. We have also noted some incredible K-Beauty skincare products that are cheaper in Korea and will help you achieve glowing skin!
The Gucci Horsebit 1955 shoulder bag is a classic handbag that will never go out of style. This structured handbag is crafted from luxe black leather and embellished with gold hardware, including a horsebit motif, which references the brand’s equestrian heritage.
The bag has an adjustable strap so it can be styled on the shoulder or across the body, while the interior is well organized with three compartments, a wall pocket, and a zip pocket!
We love the quintessentially Gucci look of this Ophidia GG medium tote bag, with the GG supreme canvas, gold GG logo, and red and green webbing – all symbols of this Italian fashion house.
The tote has been trimmed with brown leather and fitted with top handles and a detachable shoulder strap, to ensure versatility. The top zipper opens to a spacious interior, with plenty of room for all your work essential items.
2. Gentle Monster
Gentle Monster is quickly becoming one of the top brands for super stylish and trendy sunglasses, and here are two of our favorite pairs that we think you will love.
The Gentle Monster My Ma 01 square-frame sunglasses have a timeless look, with black acetate frames, in a rounded square shape finished with grey tinted lenses for a sleek finish. The sunglasses feature silver dots on the top corner and the brand name along the arm – so chic! If you have a round or triangle face, then these sunglasses are perfect for you.
If you are looking for a fashionable pair of sunglasses, then look no further than these Gentle Monster Le 01 oval-frame sunglasses!
These striking sunglasses have an oval silhouette, crafted from thick glossy black acetate and finished with grey lenses and silver hardware along the arms. The sunglasses were inspired by shapes popular in the early 2000s to create this gorgeous and totally irresistible sunnies!
The practical and chic designs of MCM bags make them a must-have in your handbag collection. The MCM Liz Reversible Visetos Tote Bag is a fantastic bag, crafted from durable coated canvas that is actually reversible which means you can pick the pattern that best suits your look – either the MCM monogram or a dark brown and white polka dot pattern.
The looping top handles easily slip over your shoulder, while the bag also comes with a removable zip pouch, making it easy to stay organized.
For a slightly more luxurious look, go for the sophisticated MCM Aren Small Monogram Leather Hobo Bag. This made is made from supple black leather that has been embossed with the MCM monogram for a subtle logo look.
The shoulder strap is adjustable and the front flap and zipper allow easy access to the surprisingly roomy interior, fitted with a handy slip pocket. The minimalist design of this handbag means it is guaranteed to suit a wide range of looks, day or night!
K-beauty skincare is world-renowned and it is definitely worth picking some items up while you are in Korea, some of our favorite brands include Innisfree, Etude House, Laneige, and Dr. Jart +.
One of the best-selling Laneige products is this Lip Sleeping Mask that provides intense hydration to leave you with soft and supple lips. The formula of this lip mask includes vitamin C, murumuru seed, and shea butter and it is meant to be applied overnight so you can wake up with moisturized lips!
This Laneige Water Bank Blue Hyaluronic Serum will provide intense hydration and help you achieve that glowing look. The luscious serum includes hyaluronic acid, peptides, and green tea enzyme and has been formulated to suit sensitive skin so anyone can add this serum to their skincare routine.
5. Dr. jart+
The Cicapair™ Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment from Dr. Jart+ is a fan favorite that will help to reduce redness and even out your skin tone.
This treatment also includes SPF 30, making it a great base to apply every day to protect you from the sun and leave you with healthy-looking skin that is soothed by the tiger grass inside this cream.
There are lots of fantastic masks available from Dr. Jart+, but this Ceramidin™ Skin Barrier Moisturizing Mask is a great option that everyone needs in their life.
This mask is great for anyone with normal, dry, or combination skin, or if you have any uneven texture or a loss of firmness. The ceramide NP and panthenol ingredients to give support to the skin barrier and nourish the skin.
We hope you found this article answering the question, are luxury brands cheaper in Korea, helpful! For more luxury fashion content, check out the links below.
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