NEW YORK — Blue Q is right on Target with two bath and body care lines the beauty marketer launched at the Minneapolis-based discounter in the summer.

Target had planned to phase out the collections, called Smart Cookie and Me Me Me, after the holidays. But now, it is understood, the retailer has extended the program through May based on the lines’ sales, which have often reached 10,000 to 14,000 units per week — double what was initially expected — according to industry estimates. Target could not be reached for comment.

Combined retail sales for the lines are expected to far exceed initial projections of $1 million annually, according to industry estimates. The two lines, which have a price range between $4 and $7, launched in a limited number of Target doors in July and reached full distribution in the chain’s 1,148 doors in October.

Target first began courting Blue Q, a brand traditionally found in independent specialty boutiques, in 2001. The retailer was interested in Blue Q’s flagship collection, called Dirty Girl, so the two companies jointly developed a similar brand — Smart Cookie — along with Me Me Me.

Prior to the holidays, it was clear that Target favored Smart Cookie. The chain featured three Smart Cookie items, a body wash, a hand-and-body lotion and a bubble bath, in a 12-page gift section it bought in numerous consumer magazines, including Lucky, Vanity Fair and In Style. The only other beauty product featured in the section that ran in the December issue of Lucky was a Sonia Kashuk lip gloss palette.

The Target gift insert "goosed" sales, said Mitch Nash, one of Blue Q’s cofounders. Nash, whose company also markets specialty store brands called Virgin Slut and Total Bitch, described Smart Cookie as a "character-driven brand with a feisty, feminine sensibility." He acknowledged that the items Target advertised are the three top sellers.

"We’re looking to build the [Target] brand, to focus on the parts that are selling the best," said Nash. "We want to make it a fixture."

Blue Q, based in Pittsfield, Mass., licensed New York-based Enchante to produce Smart Cookie and Me Me Me. Bob Greening, Enchante’s president of personal care, said "it has been more successful than we could imagine."Greening, who didn’t rule out adding or replacing items in either of the seven-stockkeeping-unit assortments, added: "We’re going [to determine] the next logical [step] based on the success we’ve had."

Sources project that net sales for Blue Q, which hit $16 million last year, could rise 17 percent for 2003, mainly from product launches and extensions. The firm’s Dirty Girl brand is said to account for one-third of sales.

Blue Q handles the Target project under a division called Make It Snappy. But Make It Snappy is not hogging all the action. Within its specialty store business, Blue Q is launching a new line of candles and soaps called Beautifleur at Henri Bendel on Feb 15. Blue Q baby products also are on the way.

"Beautifleur is a French phrase we made up," Nash quipped. Though he doesn’t think it will be the next Dirty Girl — or Smart Cookie for that matter — Nash believes Beautifleur could carve its own niche in Blue Q’s 200-plus-sku portfolio, perhaps within the older age groups of the company’s 13- to 43-year-old target audience. "The slightly more conservative retailers will like Beautifleur," said Nash. "It doesn’t have a naked chick on the box."

Plans call for the items, priced from $13 to $15, to roll out to 500 doors — or about one-third of Blue Q’s specialty store network — by yearend. Packaging features flower-petal figures and blades of grass, designs Blue Q licensed from Atlanta-based illustrator Curlin Sullivan, whose prior work includes greeting cards. Sources estimate that first-year wholesale sales of the line could reach $500,000.

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