The answer is a resounding yes. The savings on my last handbag was significant so I’ll run through the numbers with you and give you my best tips for navigating the crowds.
Update: I’ve since returned to Paris several times since the initial publish date of this post so have included some further information.
Louis Vuitton Paris Stores: Which to Choose?
I 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 17 years ago.
My husband was so intrigued by the lines of people waiting to get into the store (they were mostly from Japan, at the time) that he started to take video and was immediately busted by LV staff.
Today, there are still lines snaking outside of this particular location because it’s the flagship store.
However, the less hectic but still quite large Avenue Montaigne location (near Four Seasons Hotel George V where we stay) is only a few blocks away. On my last trip, I walked right in and bought a handbag within minutes, something that would have taken much, much longer at the Champs Elysees store.
I have also had a similar relatively-crowd-free experience at the Galleries Lafayette Louis Vuitton location.
The bottom line is that unless stepping inside the Champs Elysees store is on your life bucket list — it is a pretty great store — give it a skip if there’s a line.
Tips for Buying Louis Vuitton in Paris
Because of the savings, the Louis Vuitton stores in Paris 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.
Know Which Handbag or Accessory You Want
Because the staff is extraordinarily busy, try to know in advance which Louis Vuitton handbag, wallet, and accessories you intend to buy.
There isn’t really the time or staff bandwidth for you to labor over a decision. They will run out of patience. You will feel rushed, and there is nothing worse than buyer’s remorse on a big purchase.
Call a Louis Vuitton Paris Store for Prices and Stock
I would highly recommend calling a Louis Vuitton store in Paris to get stock and pricing information to expedite your decision.
I had my Louis Vuitton wallet stolen in Venice (by a pickpocket on the ferry, no less) on my most recent Europe trip and wanted to buy a replacement before flying home. Thankfully, Louis Vuitton is cheaper in Paris than it is in the United States.
When I arrived in Paris, I accessed Louis Vuitton’s U.S. site to see prices in USD. I did this by typing in the U.S. site’s address (us.louisvuitton.com), but you can also use a VPN on your computer set to any American city if you keep getting routed to the French site.
Next, I called the Avenue Montaigne store to ask if they had a Zippy Wallet in stock. A staff member answered the phone right away, checked stock, and happily gave me a price within minutes.
It was an easy phone call to make, so do not hesitate to call one of the stores even in advance of your trip. This way, you can estimate your savings before you go (in my case, it was about 30% on the wallet).
Shop with Your Passport
Bring your passport to the store. Otherwise, you will not be eligible for the VAT (value-added tax) refund. They need to take your passport details from your actual passport at the time of purchase. Copies, in my experience, will not suffice.
Factors that Determine Your Savings
Savings on an overseas purchase is determined by the following ever-changing factors:
- The item’s retail price, including applicable tax, in your home country
- The item’s retail price, including applicable tax, in the country of purchase
- Currency exchange rate
- Any applicable foreign exchange fees (on credit cards or any fees paid to convert cash)
- The estimated amount of VAT refund
How the VAT Refund Works
VAT is a consumption tax that 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%. However, you will not receive a full 20% VAT refund as a processing fee is deducted from your refund.
Louis Vuitton Stores Fill Out the Paperwork
If purchasing in a Louis Vuitton store, they’ll fill out the VAT refund paperwork and have you sign it in the correct spots right there in-store at the time of purchase. This is incredibly helpful and why you must have your passport with you.
If you are shopping at Galeries Lafayette (who carries Louis Vuitton among other designer brands), it’s possible to have a VAT refund processed in the store, which is incredibly convenient. This way, you avoid processing at the airport.
Process the Refund at the Airport
This document needs to be processed at the airport before your international departure.
Kiosks at the airport can digitally stamp the forms, or you may wait in line for a customs officer to issue a manual stamp. The last time I passed through CDG airport, many people were doing the latter as the kiosk wasn’t recognizing their forms.
Either way, after receiving a digital or manual stamp, seal your form in the provided envelope and drop it in the designated box. Await your refund. Mine usually takes several weeks.
Apparently, you can wait in line to have the refund processed right then and there at the airport, but I’ve never had time to try this.
Louis Vuitton Twinset Handbag by the Numbers
(The calculations below are from summer of 2015 when I bought my Louis Vuitton Twinset and originally wrote this post.)
The price of my bag in France was €1080 (€900 + 20% VAT of €180) compared to USD $1555.20 USD ($1440 retail price plus 8% California sales tax of $115.20).
The amount claimed on the VAT refund is €180 but due to the processing fee, I received €129.60 as a refund.
€1080 (retail price in France) – €129.60 (actual VAT refund) = €950.40 (true price in euros) or $1064.45 USD (at the time the exchange rate was 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.
More Tips for Buying Luxury Handbags Overseas
I very rarely buy handbags at home, because I know that they are cheaper overseas.
Timing Is Everything
The amount of money you save is largely dependent on the exchange rate. As of the time of this post update in December 2021, the euro is at 1.21 dollars which means my savings would have been slightly less though still worthwhile.
Arrive with Prices Loaded if You’re Undecided
If you don’t know which handbag you’d like to buy, it helps to have prices in your home country pre-loaded onto your smartphone when arriving at the LV store.
This way, you can check what price the Louis Vuitton items you’re considering retail for at home.
I say pre-loaded because I’ve had a hard time getting cell phone reception in some Paris stores including Louis Vuitton. One less page load, can save time.
If you can’t access your home country’s Louis Vuitton website, try using a VPN set to a city in your home country. But, make sure it’s set up before heading out to shop because, like I said, the sales associates are busy.
Check Customs Duty Requirements When Returning Home
You may have to pay a customs duty upon returning home if what you purchased abroad exceeds what you can 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 tough 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. Please don’t take my word for it. Always check before you go as things change anyway.
Use Credit Cards Without Foreign Transaction Fees
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%, for example.
Customizations Take Time
One of the fun things about buying Louis Vuitton handbags right now is their ability to be customized with fun travel stamps and initials.
If you plan to customize, buy the handbag at the beginning of your trip. However, if initials will take too long, remember that Louis Vuitton offers complimentary hot stamping on any authentic item regardless of when you purchased it.
If you are touring in Paris, see my Paris Pass vs. Paris Museum Pass comparison as a sightseeing pass does help save money for handbags.
I also have a post about why I love my Louis Vuitton Neverfull GM.
Though me, you have access to value-added amenities at many five-star Paris hotels that you would not be able to secure on your own. These perks may include complimentary breakfast for two, hotel credits, room upgrades and more.
*You may need to be on the desktop version of Virtuoso.com to search rates and book online. To enable the desktop version of a hotel page from a mobile device, scroll down to the navy blue section at the bottom of the web page and click “Full Site.” When searching rates, do not input children ages 17 and under as they will be priced as adults. I’m notified when you book and will add them when I contact you about your reservation.