NEW YORK — CVS is the latest mass-market retailer to offer an open-sell miniature designer fragrance program.

Since Nov. 1, the drugstore chain has been selling mini versions of select prestige fragrances, including CK One, Elizabeth Arden Red Door and Hugo Boss for Men and for Women. A selection of 18 scents is displayed on a rack with three across and six down.

“Reorders from our stores have been brisk,” reported a CVS spokesman. But unlike some other mass chains that offer similar fragrance collectibles, CVS has taken a prestige pricing approach. For bottles that average 0.5 ounces, CVS has applied a two-tier pricing structure — either $9.99 or $12.99. The same bottles, with slightly different packaging, are sold for $6.97 at Wal-Mart.

One fragrance industry executive said he was surprised the scents were moving at that price, “because they are available for $6.99 elsewhere.”

The fragrances are being sourced from Elizabeth Arden, formerly FFI Fragrances. Arden and other designer fragrance distributors have been expanding their business over the past year by offering mass retailers new clamshell packaging programs that allow full-size and sample-size scents to be displayed openly. For instance, Target now displays full-size designer fragrances on a peg wall and Wal-Mart has begun to merchandise full-sizes on shelves. Keeping fragrances under lock and key is known to inhibit sales.

The CVS spokesman said that offering the miniature fragrances “helps strengthen our position as a fragrance retailer in the minds of consumers.” In particular, he said, shoppers find the collectible size appealing and they also serve as a “good introduction to fragrances.”

Merchandising prestige fragrances in mass-market doors has historically been considered unauthorized distribution and has occasionally faced legal challenges by fragrance manufacturers. Still, more mass retailers are expected to add open-sell designer fragrance programs in 2002. One distributor said he had contracts pending with both drugstore and discount chains.