A Paris vacation in my world usually involves handbag research. It is less expensive, in my experience, to buy Louis Vuitton handbags in France. But, on my most recent trip, I discovered that there is actually more value in buying Goyard handbags in France, especially if you do not have one of their boutiques nearby.
Goyard is an brand of luxury handbags that has been in business since 1853. It’s known for carrying an air of secrecy and exclusivity with it that is almost unusual in today’s online world. It is not possible to buy Goyard online. They do not have a catalog or pricing available online either. In fact, at the time of this writing, I count 29 boutiques total in the entire world.
Goyard Paris Stores
We were staying at Mandarin Oriental, Paris which is just a few short blocks away from the Goyard boutiques on rue Saint-Honoré. This is actually one of my favorite neighborhoods in all of Paris to base a vacation because there is so much to do within walking distance. Everything from favorite macaron shops to Toraya, my absolute favorite Japanese wagashi shop (which does not have many outlets internationally), is here.
I say boutiques, plural, because there are two Goyard’s right across the street from each other. One carries handbags, wallets and other small leather goods while the other across the street specializes in luggage and household leather goods (like Goyard dog accessories and much more). The luggage store has the iconic trunks stacked in front.
The only other Goyard Paris boutique is inside the Printemps department store on Boulevard Haussmann.
Tips for Buying Goyard in Paris
So, you’re on a Paris vacation and are thinking about buying a Goyard handbag. Now what?
Be Prepared to Wait
A short line had already formed by the time my daughter and I arrived to the rue Saint-Honoré Goyard store at about 9:55 a.m. on a Monday, five minutes before the store opened. I would guess there were about six or so staff in the store and they let in exactly the amount of people who could enjoy one-on-one, literally white-gloved attention in addition to one or two others left to browse. Not very many people are allowed in at once. We didn’t wait long… maybe about 15 minutes or so but the line was substantially longer when we passed by later in the day. It is a small store compared to the grand Paris Louis Vuitton boutiques.
Be Prepared to Buy
Because so few people are let in at a time, it does behoove you to research the Goyard handbag or accessories you might to buy in advance. I did feel pressure to make a decision quickly. Staff was extremely helpful and attentive though I was pegged (rightfully so) as a serious buyer. I intended to walk out with a yellow Saint Louis PM handbag (the bigger one) but it just didn’t look right. I asked to see maybe 4 other bags until the white Saint Louis GM bag really caught my eye.
Bring your passport to the store. Otherwise, you will not be eligible for the VAT (value-added tax) refund.
Factors That Determine Your Savings
Savings on overseas purchases 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%. If seeking a VAT refund, you will not receive the full 20% back as there is, understandably, a processing fee.
Goyard 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. 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 which will land on your credit card several weeks later.
Apparently, you can wait in line to have the refund in cash processed right then and there but I’ve never had time to do that.
You MUST process your VAT refund BEFORE checking in for your flight. The main reason for this is that you may need to show your purchase to the customs officer (though the odds of this if processing via kiosk are low). There way to process a VAT refund once inside the airport terminal. I have forgotten to have the VAT refund stamped in the chaos of getting to the airport and checking in on time. Don’t do this, otherwise you’ll forfeit the refund.
Goyard Saint Louis GM Handbag By The Numbers
The price of my bag in France was €1040 (roughly €866 + 20% VAT of €174) compared to $1685 USD ($1560 retail price plus 8% California sales tax of $125.44).
The amount claimed on the VAT refund is €174 but there is a processing fee so I received €124 as a refund.
€1040 (retail price in France) – €124 (actual VAT refund)= €916 (true price in euros) or $1008 (at an current exchange rate of 1.11 dollars to the euro).
$1685 (price in US) –$1008 (price in France converted from euros to USD) = $677 savings
This means that I saved 41% by buying the Goyard handbag in Paris. Not bad.
Other Things to Note
If you have purchased more abroad than what customs allows, you may have to pay customs duty upon returning home. U.S. residents may bring home $800 of goods purchased abroad per person, per month if travel outside of the U.S. exceeds 48 hours.
Customs is complicated. You can’t bring in $800 worth of booze or tobacco for example. It pays to research what you’d like to bring home and how much you’d pay in advance. There are restrictions by country. It’s not a clear-cut $800 in all circumstances.
From what I understand, per IATA, 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. I have Global Entry so I try very hard not exceed my customs allowance. If you have Global Entry or some other trusted traveler program and get caught exceeding your customs allowance without declaring goods, you may lose these privileges.
Using a credit card with a foreign exchange fee will cut into your savings. My American AAdvantage Citi Executive Platinum card does not have a foreign exchange fee. My business card charges 3%.
Goyard White Saint Louis GM Handbag Review
I was worried about the white canvas being difficult to maintain and it’s surprisingly durable. It looks fabulous with jeans, black dresses and pretty much everything. I LOVE it.
It is a perfect luxury travel handbag because it folds completely flat. It is significantly more lightweight than a Louis Vuitton Neverfull of the same size. However, it can not handle the same amount of weight. I have a heavy Canon DSLR camera that seems to put stress on the Saint Louis. I would not recommend carrying heavy things in it. But for every day, it’s by far my favorite handbag at the moment.
Have you purchased a Goyard handbag in France? If so, please share your in-store experience.
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