Rewards of being on the right scent

MANY men dread the annual Valentine's Day shopping excursion to the perfume counters.

So, here are a few hints provided by avid perfume shoppers and fragrance consultants.

Almost all top-of-the-line perfumes such as Christian Dior, Estee Lauder, Ysatis de Givenchy, Chanel, Guy Laroche, Armani, Hermes, Gucci, to name just a few, can be found in Hongkong's finest shops and department stores.

And customers will usually find products, from the cheapest to top-of-the-range together - the local pharmacist, for example, is likely to stock the haughty Hermes pour Homme right next to the $64 bottle of Old Spice.

The array might be so confusing that you may decide on something else such as chocolates. But as the old saying goes, ''chocolates, spend two minutes on the lips and a lifetime on the hips''. But don't be put off by such a wide selection of perfumes, because your loved one will always be grateful for the effort.

Both Watson's and Wing On offer helpful customer service. All brand names can be found and the prices are very reasonable.

The Red Earth is also a good place for fragrance shopping.

Rather than traditionally heavy perfumes, The Red Earth offers a variety of refreshing body sprays, lotions and powders, made from only natural ''earthy'' ingredients and the sales people are always friendly.

Another enjoyable perfume shopping experience can be found at Seibu, located in Pacific Place.

Surprisingly enough, a quick price comparison proves there is really no difference between discount store prices and those in big department stores.

At Seibu you will find professionally certified perfume consultants who aim to ''inform and assist the client''.

Their Chanel consultant said that most large perfume companies imposed ''fixed prices'', explaining why Seibu's werecomparable with those at discount stores.

What is more, the high perfume turnover of large department stores such as Seibu ensures that products are fresh from the factory.

A new fragrance not to be missed is Gianfranco Ferre's new perfume for women - Ferre by Ferre.

It falls into the ''sweeter'' category, but is exceptionally subtle. The 50 millilitre eau de parfum cost $550 and Seibu is currently offering a 10 per cent discount.

Also, try Estee Lauder's new SpellBound - it is light, and perfect for Hongkong's climate. A 100 ml bottle of eau de parfum is about $650.

Shiseido perfume is very reasonable - around $370 for a 50 ml of eau de parfum - and is a delicious breath of fresh air.

Estee Lauder's White Linen is wonderfully light, a classic and timeless fragrance, but is a slightly ''older fragrance''.

Heavier fragrances such as Polo's Ralph Lauren, is divine for colder climates, but ''a little too warm'' for Hongkong, except in winter.

As for Chloe, it's sweetness can be overbearing for some Hongkong tastes.

Further information is available from the perfume consultants in most major stores.

But if amid this plethora of names it seems far easier to make a perfume selection according to the beauty of the bottle, start with the Chanel line.

Chanel is probably the most internationally adored fragrance line available.

With a reputation for timeless elegance, a gift of Chanel is always most acceptable.

Choose from their four simple and classic fragrances - No 5, No 19, Coco, and Cristalle - which offer a perfect range in variation and diversity.

Coco, the warmest, heaviest fragrance, is slightly spicy and very alluring, sells rather well to the expatriate community - 50 ml of eau de parfum is about $410.

Cristalle is refreshing and subtly sweet - great for the younger generation and very popular with Chinese.

As for No 19 and No 5, you can not go wrong.

These two perfumes have consistently delighted women, year after year, in every corner of the world.

Christian Dior remains an eternal favourite with their recent addition Dune proving very popular with locals and expatriates.

Never forget their older lines such as the delightful Diorissimo with its echo of lily of the valley, and the light but crisp Miss Dior, perfect for the younger woman.

So, for a ''sure bet'', stick to the tried and tested formulas for success.