If you’re wondering if it’s cheaper to buy Chanel — a French, largely made-in-France brand — in France, the short answer is: Oh, it sure is! Let’s do some super exciting math! And we’ll take a look at three Chanel pieces: a handbag, a lipstick, and some perfume. Note that these are prices for new, retail Chanel goods. For this post, we’re leaving out the myriad possibilities of resellers, vintage shops, etc etc.
Is Chanel Cheaper in Paris: The Handbag
To start off, we’re talking full-fat, retail prices. Let’s look at the Mini Cabas in pink, it’s beautiful:
As Chanel fans know, it is at this time not possible to purchase new Chanel handbags online. The Chanel website, though, does offer “recommended retail prices,” which you can toggle between English/USD and French/euros (look for the option at the bottom of the website, where it says “Change language and location).
In euros, the Mini Cabas is 4300€. In USD, it’s $4400. At the current conversion rate, that’s $4450. Now, let’s add 3% in foreign-transaction credit card fees, for $4686.50. Now, we can subtract 12% in VAT refund for residents of non-EU countries, meaning our total recommended retail price in France for the Mini Cabas bag is $4124.12. Ultimately, a substantial savings over the US price (which would of course be inflated by local, city or state taxes, where applicable): Let’s say you’re shopping in New York City, where sales tax is 8.875%.
Your final price: $4790.50. In France, you’d pay $4124.12, meaning you’d save 14%!
Chanel’s Rouge Coco Bloom is available at Nordstrom for $45 (with free shipping!). Let’s again add on NYC sales tax (8.875%), for a total price of $48.99.
It’s also available in France, at Sephora, for 38,25€, or $40.50.
Now this time, you won’t qualify for VAT unless you spend another 63€ or so — to qualify for VAT refund, you must spend over 100€ in a single store.
If you don’t qualify for the VAT refund, you’ll save 17.3%. If you do qualify for VAT, you’ll receive a 12% refund, meaning the cost of the lipstick will go down to $35.64, and your percentage of savings to 27%! But you’ll have to spend a little more to get that.
(Remember, for both the lipstick and the perfume below, most foreign credit cards will incur a fee of about 3%, knocking down your percentage of savings by a point or so — which may very well be balanced out by local/city/state sales taxes, depending on where you’re shopping.)
What’s more Parisian than a bottle of Chanel No. 5? Note I do not like this perfume at all and definitely suggest Le Labo’s Paris scent instead? Whatever! It’s a classic!
The 3.4-ounce bottle of Chanel No. 5 eau de parfum is available at Sephora (US) for $165.
In France, this is sold at Sephora as 100ml — and it’s 121.50€, obviously much cheaper (specifically, 22% cheaper).
And once you factor in the 12% VAT refund, it’s even more so: 121.50€ drops down to 106.92€, or about $113.50 — for a super-substantial savings of 31%!