Ever wondered why you pay so much for a pair of jeans in New Zealand?

A pair of black Levi's 501s for men cost up to $139.90 here but you can pick up the same pair in the United States for just $75.11.

The style is among many of the "original" style jeans on sale at Levi's retailer www.us.levi.com, retailing for US$52.90.

The woman who answered the phone at Just Jeans in Queen St said prices for 501s varied, with the most recent fashion, torn jeans, at higher prices. The store's range is from $139.90 to $149.90.

The range in the United States is priced at between $52.90 and $85.

The Weekend Herald has compared the price of jeans as part of a series asking why we pay so much for goods and services in New Zealand after comments from visiting rugby writer Peter Bills, who called the country "one giant rip-off".

Shamubeel Eaqub, principal economist for the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, said it was hard to compare the price of specific products between countries but offered several factors that may go some way to explaining the price differences.

"New Zealand is a smaller market," he said.

"You don't have the same kind of volumes. It's a very important driver for some of these retailers.

"If you think about how many jeans you have to hold to service your customers it's probably no different in Wellington as opposed to New York for a particular shop.

"So, if you have far fewer customers going through because we have much smaller cities, it's harder for them to make money on it.

"The variety we have in New Zealand is a lot less than you would get in a slightly bigger market such as Australia.

"You don't get different lengths for jeans in New Zealand, whereas in America you can buy anything off the shelf and it will fit you perfectly.

"But it makes sense - you've got so many people coming through, you can afford to have all the different sizes, whereas in New Zealand you can't.

"They're much wealthier as well. They can afford to buy more things because they've got more income, they're much richer than we are.

"The potential market is quite a bit bigger so it's a double impact of more people plus more incomes.

"Also, in America they are going through the biggest recession since the Great Depression so there is a huge amount of discounting.

"Relatively speaking, our economy is in better shape so we're not having the same kind of discounts, even though it looks as though there are plenty of good sales out there."