by Christie Scott
You may have heard some say that liquor is cheaper in California. The facts are that only a handful of products are significantly lower, while most products are very competitive. In fact, after you’ve added in the California sales tax, many popular products in Oregon are actually less expensive.
Many retail stores in states like California use a sales tactic called “loss leaders.” This is the practice of drastically marking down a few popular, fast-moving products to entice customers into coming into the store and purchasing other products. But then other products are likely marked higher to make up the cost difference.
The OLCC does not use these techniques to entice people into liquor stores. For public safety reasons, the state does not try to encourage alcohol sales or try to entice people into the stores.
The most common size bottle sold in Oregon is 750 ml also known as "fifths." Most people who purchase alcohol purchase this size - and this is the size where Oregon is the most competitive.
We took the advertised prices from a popular grocery chain and liquor store in California (including their sales tax) and compared them to Oregon. The price comparison showed that the final cost of a "fifth" of Smirnoff Vodka in Oregon was $12.95. In California, the final price (including sales tax) was $15.21. Another popular brand, Bailey’s Irish Cream, was $21.95 in Oregon - the average price, including tax, was $23.92 in California.
In a 2010 study, there were many brands in which the Oregon price was lower than California ’s: Bacardi, Jack Daniels, Seagrams, Jose Cuervo and Hennessy - just to name a few.
Many products were pretty comparable. For example, in Oregon you can buy a “fifth” of Captain Morgan for $18.48 - it’s $19.02 for the Captain south of the Oregon border. Skyy Vodka is currently $21.99 at Oregon liquor stores and you can buy it for about $19.57 in California.
So, for most prices Oregon is very competitive. However, there is one area where prices may be higher. Other states often price the half gallons/gallons of alcohol cheaper than they are here in Oregon. Oregon’s sales data shows that there aren’t as many people buying liquor in large sizes for their personal use. Oregon liquor stores do carry the larger sizes, but the most frequently purchased size remains the “fifth.”
Oregon will not compete for lower prices of the larger sized liquors. The Oregon Constitution has charged the state with “…the promotion of temperance in the use and consumption of alcoholic beverages, encourage the use and consumption of lighter beverages…”