West Liquor’s eye-watering prices

Anyone who has shopped for booze in West Auckland knows that prices at The Trusts are high. But how high are they? Is it “10 cents – who cares” as Sir Bob Harvey tells us? And is Portage’s president Pam Nuttall being straight-up with us when she recently asserted that “there’s this mythology somehow that The Trusts are more expensive and I think that the survey data has established that that’s not necessarily the case”.

Over the last few months, we’ve done our own comprehensive survey comparing prices at West Liquor and Pak n Save. It shows that West Liquor’s prices are not only higher; they are substantially higher.

  • West Liquor’s wine prices are 25% higher than Pak n Save’s
  • West Liquor’s beer/cider prices are 14% higher than Pak n Save’s

We found that whilst prices for individual products might change from week to week, the overall difference in price between the two retailers was very consistent.

Wine prices

Of the 1347 comparisons we made for wines, West Liquor had the lower price just 18 times whereas Pak n Save had a better price 1320 times (blue bars). Prices were equal 9 times. For almost two out of three products (65%), wine prices were at least 20% higher at West Liquor than Pak n Save.

Beer prices

Beer has lower retailer margins than wine and that shows in the lower, but still substantial, price difference of 13.6%. Of the 894 comparisons we made for beer, West Liquor had the lower price just 39 times, prices were equal 54 times and Pak n Save had a better price 801 times. Well over half of the time (59%), beer prices were more than 10% higher at West Liquor than Pak n Save.

WE WANT CHEAP BOOZE! No, not exactly… we want a fair deal

Whenever we mention price, we hear the howls from our detractors that we’re just after cheap booze. Yeah, nah… that’s not it. Three things:

  1. WALTAG doesn’t take a position on whether alcohol prices in NZ are too high or too low. But we are clear that the rules in West Auckland should be the same as elsewhere. Applying a monopoly, and its associated surcharge, in one part of a city is just plain dumb. It motivates shoppers to buy their groceries outside the district, driving economic activity, investment, and jobs away from West Auckland. It’s also a pain in the bum.
  2. The Trusts heavily promote their generosity, but how much are they taking via the “surcharge” and how does that compare to what they give back. West Aucklanders spent nearly $120 million in West Liquor stores last year. A “surcharge” of 10%, would mean $12 million a year that they’re taxing from drinkers’ pockets. Add to that the ~$5 million of profit that their investments should be rightfully generating each year and the giving back (which peaked at $3.2 million last year, but averaged just under $1 million in the 7 years prior) is pitifully low.
  3. The final point is that without this “surcharge”, The Trusts would not be able to make ends meet. Their current business model (i.e. the monopoly model) relies on charging West Aucklander’s higher prices.
Details of our analysis

We captured prices from The Trusts’ online store and Pak n Save online on 11 different occasions between 29 May and 29 November (at least once each month).

We only compared prices if both retailers had the identical product available on the same day. On each occasion, beer/cider comparisons were made for 78 to 99 different products, and wine comparisons were made for 114 to 130 products. In total, we made 2,329 comparisons across 264 different products.

We compared the price available to customers on that day, i.e. if the product was on special at West Liquor, we used the discounted price.

You can download the full table of data [here].