Saving on Scents : Duty Free offers a large variety of fragrances, even the newest names, at discounts from 15% to 80% off retail.

With several gift-giving occasions coming up--Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, graduation, wedding showers--why not plan ahead and get it all done in one stop? A stash of fragrances can solve a lot of last-minute gift-giving crises. A great source for fragrances is Duty Free Cosmetics--a misnomer since there are no cosmetics here--where the prices may be the best in town.

The discounts run from 15% to 80% off retail on name-brand perfumes. Some of those names are: Cartier, Dior, Armani, Gucci, Givenchy, Hermes, Oscar de la Renta, Lancome, Jean Patou, Paco, Picasso, Caron, Ungaro, Boss, Chanel, Boucheron, Molinard, Claude Montana, Ralph Lauren, Rochas, Davidoff, Kenzo, Gianfranco Ferre and Trussardi.

Recent specials were impressive. For women, a one-ounce Must de Cartier eau de toilette that retails for $45 was $25.99, and a two-ounce spray parfum de toilette of Caleche was $35.99, compared to $60 retail. Diva, a popular fragrance, was $25.99 for a one-ounce eau de parfum spray, instead of $45. The price at many perfume counters on Hermes one-ounce eau de toilette spray is $40, but at Duty Free, it's half that at $19.99.

Most of the fragrances at Duty Free Cosmetics are made and bottled in France or Italy, and a few carry the United States as the place of origin.

Some discount perfume sources have familiar packaged fragrances that come from Mexico or South America. Owner Tony Dolbakian claims that those have higher alcohol content and evaporate faster.

Look for the country of origin printed on either the box or the bottle. If it isn't there, you're probably getting a lesser-quality fragrance.

"If someone has been used to wearing a particular fragrance bottled in the country of origin, and then purchased the same fragrance bottled somewhere else, the difference would be noticeable," Dolbakian says.

At some perfume counters that offer discounts, it's often difficult to find the latest names, and if you do find them, the discount is minimal.

At Duty Free Cosmetics, a 3.4-ounce eau de toilette spray of the new L'eau d'Issey by Issey Miyake was selling for $62 instead of the $78 price in department stores.

Alberta Ferretti's Femina fragrance was introduced within the last month, yet Duty Free has it, and it's discounted just under 27%, deep for a new product. The 1.7-ounce eau de parfum spray carries a retail price of $45, but it's $32.99 here.

Some price cuts are even more impressive.

Full-strength perfume does not sell nearly as well as the lighter editions--eau de parfum, eau de toilette and eau de cologne--so the discounts are bigger on the lighter blends.

One full ounce of Givenchy III perfume lists at $145, but it is $45 at Duty Free Cosmetics.

I have a gentleman friend whose favorite scent is Jacomo, so when I spotted the $50 size of Jacomo eau de cologne for $14.99, I became a believer.



What: Duty Free Cosmetics.

Location: 15053 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa.

Call: (818) 906-1234.

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