Mustela, the prestige-positioned brand best known for its mom-to-be and baby skin care products, has entered several chain drugstores this week, keeping in line with its pharmaceutical heritage.

This story first appeared in the March 7, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

While the initiative is modest — only six Rite Aid stores have received Mustela’s Dermo-Pediatrics line for babies with atypical skin — the entry shows that when mass retailers carve out special areas for niche, upscale brands, they will come.

Mustela is made by Expanscience, the sixth largest pharmaceutical company in France. The brand is typically sold in leading pharmacies in Europe, so its entry into former Brooks-Eckerd units — within their Derma-Skincare Centers — is in line with the brand’s distribution expansion.

“We do not see this as a mass launch,” said Judy Carlo, managing director of Mustela USA and Canada. “The line is pharmacy-driven and it will be placed in the Derma-Skincare Centers with other European brands. [This initiative] really does mirror what goes on in Europe.”

Carlo added that she does not plan to expand the brand into additional chain drugstores.

Mustela’s Dermo-Pediatrics line was launched in 2006 “with a very careful rollout, even more selective than our overall strategy,” Carlo said. Stores that sell Dermo-Pediatrics must have in-store sales associates and must also sell over-the-counter-type products.

Last year, the Mustela brand grew 12 percent in sales worldwide, generating in excess of $100 million. The U.S. subsidiary, based in New York, experienced more than twice that growth with a 25 percent increase last year. The sales gain catapulted Mustela’s U.S. business from the firm’s fifth largest subsidiary to its second largest in the world, behind Spain.

Growth is attributed to expanding within existing retail partners, such as Babies ‘R’ Us and Bath & Body Works.

Mustela is carried in 2,200 stores in the U.S. and in 400 stores in Canada. U.S. sales are projected to increase by 20 percent this year.

Several new items are also on the horizon for Mustela. The brand is entering a new category with a line of neutraceuticals, Body Firming Activator, a bestseller in France. The supplements are meant to be taken twice a day — once in the morning and once at night — and are formulated to reduce water retention, help with weight control and improve skin’s appearance with folic acid, pineapple extract and borage and fish oils.

A 60-count bottle — a one-month supply — is priced at $39 and lands in stores this month.

Additionally, an extension of Dermo-Pediatrics is planned for this fall. The four-item range will be free of fragrances, parabens, preservatives and colorants.