David Charlton of David’s Salon on the Secret to Four Decades of Success in the Beauty Industry

Wanting to cater to the mass market, David Charlton started and grew David’s Salon into a thriving business with a loyal customer base and strong brand recall.

Hair salons may have been one of the badly hit industries during the pandemic, with 33,803 establishments that offer personal services for wellness in the Philippines in 2020—as opposed to the 41,270 active establishments in 2019, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority’s 2020 statistics.

However, given the large market for haircare—valued at PHP57.2 billion in 2021 with a forecasted increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 3% from 2021 to 2026—there is an opportunity for hair salons to bounce back.

Among the many salons in the Philippines, David’s Salon is a top-of-mind choice and it has certainly made a major comeback in the past two years. Established in 1989 by David Charlton, it aims to bring fine European hairdressing to the local market through its wide range of hair and beauty services. Since its inception, it has grown into the biggest chain of hair salons in the Philippines.

“We take pride in providing the highest quality of service at prices everyone can afford,” David says. Here’s how he did it.

An Englishman in Manila

In the late 70’s, David, a British businessman, came to the Philippines to manage Mandarin Oriental Hotel’s in-house salon Rêver—the beauty hub of the rich and influential. A couple of years later, he bought Rêver and ventured on his own. At that time, there were already nine Réver branches mostly located in hotels around the metro.

It did not take long, however, before the astute businessman saw the potential in making his hair and beauty services available to the mass market. In 1989, David set up the very first David’s Salon in New Farmer’s Market, Cubao. Four decades later, David’s Salon, Incorporated (DSI) has over 247 branches  (and counting!) all over the Philippines.

Hairstylist and Businessman Extraordinaire—“To start a beauty salon, you yourself must be a hairstylist. All the successful salons are run by owners who are skilled people. It’s impossible to set up shop and not know what to do with a pair of scissors,” says David Charlton, CEO of David’s Salon, Incorporated.

A Family Affair 

At 68 years old, CEO and President David is still very much on top of the beauty empire that he built. He started his career at 16 years old when he worked for his uncle’s salon in England. Of his three daughters, the youngest Laura has joined him in running the business as the company’s Creative Director.

A typical day starts with David taking a morning swim at the penthouse pool at the DSI headquarters in Makati. In fact, he is a proud triathlete—evidenced by the many framed photos of his sports conquests on display at his office. Through the course of the day, David gets updates from the different departments and is kept abreast of marketing initiatives by Laura.

As the head of the company, there are three traits that Mr. Charlton considers indispensable to carrying out his role. These are leadership by example, respect for his team, and ultimately, the ability to run a profitable enterprise.

“Yes, this is a family-run business but my definition of family extends to my loyal employees. Some of our senior executives have been with me for 35 years. Our strength lies in them. Our main office houses 150 employees. Nationwide, we have about 3,000. Their service is invaluable to the company,” the CEO remarks.

Laura, on the other hand, handles the Beauty Department, content creation, marketing, and product development. “I’m always on the lookout for exciting beauty trends. The beauty service industry is ever-evolving, so keeping up with the trends is one of the most challenging tasks of my job,” she says.

“Finding the best products to enhance our services, and lately, developing our own line and making these products available to our clients has been a very fulfilling project,” she enthuses.

“It’s very important to set clear goals for the team. I don’t like micromanaging people—rather I want to see them grow while they execute various tasks,” David chimes in.

“Remember, this is a largely skill-based operation,” he adds. “I have an open-door policy where they can approach me whenever they need to. We are a big organization so we have monthly scheduled meetings, and if need be, one-on-one consults since each person has his own goal to achieve.”

Keeping Up with Beauty Trends—Creative Director Laura Charlton is focused on bringing in the latest and most innovative European hairdressing technology to the Philippine market.

Being Prepared During the Pandemic

Accessibility, affordability, and dependable quality of service are the main drivers of success for David’s Salon. This is why the brand has a presence nationwide and is very active on social media, too. They offer a streamlined menu of services ranging from a basic cut (PHP 300) to their most expensive Brazilian hair treatment (PHP 6000). Also included are hair and makeup, nail care, nail extensions, hair coloring threading or waxing, as well as reflexology, at budget-friendly price points.

Customers are also able to choose between junior and senior stylists. “People like familiarity. They patronize our salons because we are clean, the staff is friendly, and our stylists are trained to cut according to the client’s preferences and/or recommend suitable styles,” expounds Mr. Charlton.

In terms of sanitation and safety, the salons did not find it difficult to adjust to COVID-19 protocols—as they already had their own systems in place pre-pandemic. It was just the addition of PPEs that they had to follow. 

David Charlton on Moving Forward

“If we don’t move forward, we stagnate,” says David matter-of-factly. “That’s why we are always on the lookout for the latest products, styles, and trends. Our staff travels a lot, too. We just had two batches come back from Korea.”

“The surge of Korean hairstyle requests is amazing! There’s a KDrama and Kpop revolution happening, and, of course, if that is the demand, then we will cater to it,” he goes on to add. “This October, with the help of our partner suppliers, the company will bring 30 employees to the Salon International Fair in London, where they will be exposed to the newest innovations in the industry.”

David has also traveled to Milan twice this year and is heavily in talks with a company in Milan for the brand’s next partnership. In 2024, he will bring Italian hair care experts to the country to introduce European products and teach new techniques to the team. 

Another innovation introduced by DSI is the opening of Barberina—a barber shop manned by female hairstylists. While it is only in Alabang, where there is a sole stand-alone branch of this concept store, in other David Salons, you will find a dedicated space for men within.

Barberina is a coined term that means “barber and ballerina.”  Instead of the men idly waiting for the ladies on the couches, they too can experience pampering by the graceful moving female staff. The experiment has proven successful—hence, the opening of more Barberina branches is in the offing.

The David’s Salon Experience—Every client is given professional care and pampering by trained creative stylists and assistants.

On Growing New Talent and Friendly Competition

Both David and Laura agree that one of the best rewards of conducting their business is the opportunity to change lives. Unlike other businesses that take on stylists and staff from other salons, DSI takes pride in training people in their very own David’s Salon Academy.

“A number of employees are from the provinces or are trying to overcome hardships,” says David. “We train them, they stay and grow with us, and soon they are able to buy their own cars and houses.”

“There are a lot of people who are not academically minded. College is not the only way to ensure success. We must empower those who are skilled so they too can have a better chance in life,” he adds. “Here in DSI, we don’t only grow talent—we continuously train our staff so they get better and better at their craft.”

Mr. Charlton also reveals that he has maintained good relations with other salon owners. “I am friendly with owners of different salons. We have lunches together and regular meet-ups. We have healthy competition amongst us.”

“Simply put, there are about 110 million people in the country,” he continues. “Even if I open a thousand salons, I still would not be able to service everyone. There is space for everybody. I’m happy to say that in four decades, we have established ourselves as the salon to go to for quality products and services—and the Filipinos have put their trust in us continuously.”

“So as long as you enter our doors, whoever you are, whatever you do, David’s Salons will bring out the best in you,” he ends.

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