Is it Less Expensive to Buy Louis Vuitton in France?
A burning question on the minds of many luxury goods enthusiasts like me might be whether or not it is cheaper to buy authentic Louis Vuitton in Paris or anywhere else in France. The answer is a resounding yes and the savings on my last handbag was so significant that I’ll run through the numbers with you and give you my best tips for navigating the crowds.
Louis Vuitton Paris Stores
I tend to purchase handbags and wallets during trips when I can take advantage of savings like this. My first entry into the Louis Vuitton store on the Champs Elysees was about 14 years ago. My husband was in tow and the lines of people waiting to get into the store (they were mostly from Japan, a the time) was so staggering that he video taped it and was immediately busted by LV staff.
Today, there are still lines snaking outside of this particular location. It’s big and the flagship store. Not wanting to wait in line, I walked a few extra blocks to the less hectic, but still quite large Avenue Montaigne location where I walked right in and bought a handbag within minutes.
I have also had a similar relatively-crowd-free experience at the Galleries Lafayette location. So, unless stepping inside the Champs Elysees store is on your life bucket list, give it a skip if there’s a line.
Tips for Buying Louis Vuitton in Paris
Because of the savings, the stores are very, very busy. And, we’re talking busy with people from all over the world buying as many handbags as quotas will allow. The amount of cash per day spent in these stores must be absolutely staggering.
Staff is extraordinarily busy so you should know in advance which Louis Vuitton handbag, wallet, and/or accessories you intend to buy. There isn’t really time or staff bandwidth for you to labor over a decision. You will be rushed and there is nothing worse than buyer’s remorse on big purchases.
Bring your passport to the store. Otherwise, you will not be eligible for the VAT (value-added tax) refund.
Factors that Determine Your Savings
Determining savings on an overseas purchase is determined by the following ever-changing factors:
- Retail price including applicable tax in your home country
- Currency exchange rate
- Foreign exchange fees (on credit cards or any fees paid to convert cash)
- VAT refund
How the VAT Refund Works
VAT is a consumption tax that is already included in the price of items purchased in France (as well as many other countries abroad). The rate of VAT varies depending on what you’re purchasing, but the standard rate in France is 20%. You will not receive a full 20% VAT refund as there is a processing fee.
Louis Vuitton will fill out the paperwork and have you sign the document in the correct spots right there in the store. The document needs to be processed at the airport prior to departure. Kiosks are available for digital stamping of the forms or you may wait in line for a customs officer to issue a manual stamp (a number of people were doing the latter as the kiosk wasn’t recognizing their forms). Either way, after receiving a digital or manual stamp, seal the form in the provided envelope and drop it in the designated box. Await your refund.
Apparently, you can wait in line to have the refund processed right then and there but I’ve never had time to do that.
Louis Vuitton Twinset Handbag by the Numbers
The price of my bag in France was €1080 (€900 + 20% VAT of €180) compared to $1555.20 USD ($1440 retail price plus 8% California sales tax of $115.20).
The amount claimed on the VAT refund is €180 euros but there is a processing fee so I will receive €129.60 euros as a refund.
€1080 (retail price in France) – €129.60 (actual VAT refund)= €950.40 (true price in euros) or $1064.45 (at a current exchange rate of 1.12 dollars to the euro).
$1555.20 (price in US) – $1064.45 (price in France converted from euros to USD) = $490.85 savings
This means that I saved 31% by buying the handbag in Paris. Not bad.
Good to Know
The amount of money you save is largely dependent on the exchange rate. Just a few months prior, the euro and USD were almost at par, which means my savings would have been about 10% greater. Timing is everything.
If you are in the store and want to price check what the items retail for at home, make sure you are on the Louis Vuitton site in your home country otherwise you won’t be able to see pricing on their French site. To save time, preload your home Louis Vuitton site on your phone before entering the store.
You may have to pay a customs duty upon returning home if what you purchased abroad exceeds what you are allowed to bring back in. For example, U.S. residents are allowed $800 per person, per month if they travel outside of the U.S. for 48 hours. From what I understand, per the IATA (it is very hard to find this information on the U.S. Customs website but if you know the link, I’d love to post it), a family of three can group their allowance for a single purchase of $2400, for example. Don’t take my word for it, always check before you go as things change anyway.
Make sure that your credit card doesn’t charge you an excessive foreign exchange rate fee that will cut into your savings. My American AAdvantage Executive Platinum card doesn’t have a foreign exchange fee, but my business card charges 3%.
I had intended to make it to Goyard, but we ran out of time. I crunched some numbers so if you are looking for a Goyard handbag, it is better to buy these in France, too.
Happy shopping! If you have tips to share for buying Louis Vuitton in France or anywhere else abroad. Please share!