LIFESTYLE

The Philippines Masa Barber Salon Renaissance

The Philippines Masa Barber Salon Renaissance
The Forgotten 90% &
How Black American Filipino Fusion
SWAG PH Is Changing The Game.

In the Philippines, one of the few –and fastest growing – non college grad required professional industries is the beauty and grooming industry. With over 15 million barber and beauty shops and an army of barbers and stylists throughout the country, the multi-trillion peso Mega industry ranks in the top 5 along with real estate, BPO/call centers and food & beverage (F&B).

Also, according to The Philippines’ Department of Labor and Employment (Filipino: Kagawaran ng Paggawa at Empleyo, commonly abbreviated as DOLE), barbers, hairdressers and beauticians are in demand and are occupations which top the list of hard-to-find employees.

Barbering /Hairdressing, jewelry making and land surveying have replaced nursing and caregiving as top jobs in demand overseas, prompting the Technical Education and Schools Development Authority (Tesda) to open new courses covering these professions.

“We believe that there is a high demand for jobs in the fields of jewelry making, land surveying and barbering both in the Philippines and abroad,” Tesda Director General Joel Villanueva.

However, unlike in the United States and other Western countries, barbers and beauticians are not required to possess individual business licenses, more than 1,000 training hours; cosmetology or barber college credentials, non-employee independent business licenses, nor cosmetology certification. This is a huge advantage for Philippines-based stylists and barbers who are self-taught, which means they can work in a shop and/or salon after a simple skills assessment by the owner(s) and/or manager(s).

For barbers and stylists in the Philippines, who are looking to level-up, gain credentials, or work in prestigious salons, there are very few avenues for respectable education and training.

However, one of the most-popular and respected institutes is, The Ricky Reyes Institute which expresses that ‘in hair cutting, for instance, students [who desire to be Ricky Reyes Graduates] have to undergo graded practice sessions, first on a head of yarn glued to a piece of paper, then on a mannequin with human hair. After mastering the different techniques with these exercises and getting a passing grade, they can move on to actual practice.’
“We have beefed up our training sessions to make sure our students are fully equipped with the proper skills before they go out into the real world…we also invite foreign experts to the school to conduct seminars for highly specialized topics.” – Hair Guru Ricky Reyes.

Subsequently, the disadvantage –according to DOLE- is that these self-taught professionals lack the etiquette, professionalism, practical assessment and ethics backgrounds required by foreign owners, as well as, mid to high-level Philippines-based shops and salons. Basics, such as time management, cross-contamination, sleeping on-the-job and proper uniform/gear are typically learned in a institutional setting.

In addition; according to the same DOLE Report, ‘many [stylist and barbers] have unrealistic expectations of high-salaries.’ Due to selectivity in recruitment, most barber shop and salon vacancies take over 3-months to fill as owners become increasingly critical of applicants.

The American-style ‘booth rent’ or ‘rent-a-chair’ shops are also becoming more and more popular. Savvy stylists and barbers whom are confident in their ability to market themselves and retain clientele; but do not want to/or are able to finance their own shops, deny a salary and simply ‘rent or lease’ the chair in a shop. After they pay their ‘booth rent’ the rest of their sales (if any) are their profit. The may also have their own tax, DTI, licensing and AD campaigns, and are seen as entrepreneur/owner stylists and barbers rather than ‘employees’ of the shop.

Just as with tattoo artists, barbers and hair stylists have been thrust onto the forefront as the overall Philippine Economy booms.

Today, millions -and millions- of people in the Philippines have entered the workforce ranging from domestic staff, to service, entrepreneurship and professional fields. Subsequently, there is a spike in college enrollment as well. This new gainfully employed market; their student-aged children and siblings, as well as, their families are all beneficiaries. And, they all want to look great and successful.

Conversely, this new economic wave is slow to catch on in the marketplace. As 90% of the barbershop and salon developers continue to scamper to create yet another ‘high-end’, exclusive, padded-priced, saucy and prime shop to cater to the top 10% and top 2% of the market; there remains an increasingly huge void in the marketplace.

Highly-passionate and popular mainstream barbers such as, 24-year old, father of two, Anthony Lapidez Perando aka “Anton” from Iloilo City, Philippines [shown below] are becoming the trend.

Anton is an self-taught Express Cut Master and Barber Tattoo Artists who started cutting in a barbershop when he was merly15-years old, and has become one of the most-well known barbers in his city. An ‘Express Cut Master’ such as Anton, can cut up to 50 haircuts in one day, as well as, perform the more time-consuming cuts such as The Pompadour, Barber Art (by hand) or Bald Fades. Anton says his secret to speed and quality is his ability to make ‘every move count’ and he proves it every day. Anton, can complete one haircut anywhere from 5-mins to 15 mins, allocating 30 mins for fades and up to 1 hour for barber art.

Just as in most-emerging economies, the ‘hip’ and ‘kool’ market is the mainstream or Masa market. More and more young and trendy customers are seeking the newest fades, barber art and ‘The Barber Tattoo Art’ made ultra-popular by black American urban and hip-hop culture is being mastered by pros like Anton in the Philippines.

And, these ‘regular barbers’ are raising the bar in terms of hipness and speed. Ground-breaking shop concepts, such as SWAG in Malolos City, Bulacan, Philippines who take the upscale vibe and service, and wrap it around ‘featured’ mainstream barbers and stylists for the same mainstream low family-friendly prices.

“I value my customers and appreciate being able to make as many people as I can, look and feel great for just P40! That’s less than $1 and foreigners like it also. This [cutting hair] is my passion, and I believe this is why I am here…I am also a single father of 2 amazing kids, this has given me a livelihood, and a way to –honestly- feed my family with pride. When no one else gave me a chance, Mel and Arche Laurio, the owners of the shop I work in now [Arche Salon & Barbershop] helped me graduate high school and blessed me with stability and a life-long skill…barbering.” Anton told The American Press Service in an interview yesterday.

Black American and Filipino-Chinese fusion flagship barber salon, SWAG Barber Salon & Boutique was created as a test-market franchise concept and set out to satisfy the void by offering one of the nicest designed boutique-style shops.

SWAG Barber Salon & Boutique, received a warm-welcome from more than 1,000 Philippines-based customers; or ‘Guests’ as they like the call them, in their first 90-days of business (SWAG PH opened its doors August 12th, 2017). SWAG PH has a 5 Star Facebook rating (/SWAGSalonPH) and is ranked #2 Best Barber Salon in Bulacan, Philippines by Google America.

SWAG PH is the countries newest Masa shop style, complete with the highest-service standards possible, family-friendly, quality-products, yet, the lowest priced and Masa-centric shop concept in the country. With a West Coast, urban American, hip-hop vibe, music videos, 2 lounge areas, SWAG Philippines-handmade and all-natural pomades, SWAG shampoos, conditioners and beauty/grooming products, along with free beverages, fresh brewed coffee service and even on-line bookings (www.SWAGph.com).

SWAG PH is poised to be the Philippines hottest new franchise and/or chain and the only one positioned to directly-rival the Masa or regular shops –not the big shops like Davids, Brunos nor Reyes.

The Jackson Family from the United States(KA&CO America, www.KareemAntonio.com), and The Tiongson Family in the Philippines (The Tiongson Group), have been partners in their business development, IT, marketing and publishing ventures for nearly a decade. They’ve consulted and worked with US Ambassadors, celebrities, Philippines DOT, hundreds of businesses and entrepreneurs in the country and around the world, published a dozen lifestyle magazines, a radio and a TV Show all promoting Philippines lifestyle.

Now; in an effort to prove the skeptics wrong, they have set out together to innovate the beauty and grooming industry by raising the bar, for low-end and/or ‘Masa Market’ barber shops and salons in the country. The forgotten 90%.

“At SWAG, Our MISSION is…
…to democratize the Philippines’ Grooming & Beauty Industry
by bringing highly-skilled, full-service, top-quality products,
signature service, stylish boutique-style shops
and professionalism, at the lowest prices to the community at-large.
Ultimately, to deliver the charming and warm-welcoming service standards only experienced by Philippines rich, to our guest.”
–Kareem Jackson, KA&CO America Senior Partner, SWAG US Senior Partner
& General Manager

In the Philippines, of course the ‘Beauty Industry’ lead by Icons like Vicky Belo drips of glitz, glam and the Mega rich. Glam Divas such as Cory Quirino and Kris Aquino have dominated the visual market of Philippine beauty for a generation.

However, what most of the world doesn’t realize is that for low to mid-level employees –especially management levels, beauty and grooming is required for both interviewing, as well as, employment –for men and women alike.

Therefore; in terms of economies-of-scale, it does not make sense that the shops who cater to this massive hard-working demographic, are not the ‘nice’ shops. It is bewildering why, the industry doesn’t see the value in the masses (aka The Masa). Ego gets in the way of growth and ultimately, the consumers, mainstream barbers and stylists suffer.

Not surprisingly, the ‘Hipster’ P150-500+ haircut shops are the new trend. When applying, many barbers’ first question is often “How much are your haircuts?” looking for a high-end clientele –not people in need. That selective approach, actually goes completely against the true-calling of a barber or stylist. A stylist or barber possesses a passion for making people look and feel their best.

A good barber or stylists has the ability to change a person’s life. Therefore, it should be available to all –especially the Philippine masses, who are on a quest for life-changing opportunities.

A great haircut, boost your self-esteem, promotes higher confidence and can help you to land a great job or promotion; which can be life-changing. But, that ‘exclusive shop’ business model which has grown so popular, usually benefits the shop owners as less is considered more and ‘status’ –not popularity, market share, nor profitability- become the focus. It also red-lines or marginalizes the ‘regular’ barbers/stylists and creates a huge –unnecessary- wedge between the two professional communities.

However, 90% of the Philippines population cannot afford those shops, and are limited to the P50 shops, and are void of the quality of service they deserve for their hard-earned money.

Marketing Fact: For the consumer making minimum wage, the P50 or P100 haircut ‘feels’ the same as the P500 haircut to a rich or gainfully employed person. The same with the P1,000 rebond vs. the P3,500 rebond.

Price should not, equal quality when it comes to beauty and grooming; as it is in the ‘service’ industry. Price should actually equate to quantity; if a client has more money, they may avail more services or upgrade to a premium product –however, the ‘service’ should maintain a standard.

SWAG PH has set out to create the first truly-masa centric barber salon brand which equals quality and to take the ‘price’ out of the marketing equation.

While extremes are always needed in business, healthy, great looking hair should be available for all at any price. The differentiating factor, therefore, should be the brand, style, the time and/or the multiple services. Due to the fact that many cannot afford the ‘proper services’ recommended by professionals, many Philippines-based customers wear the same ‘look’ as everyone else, have damaged, over-processed and/or under-maintained hair.

In addition, most of the truly-talented barbers and stylists are self-taught and inherently passionate. These professionals cannot gain employment nor ‘rent-a-booth’ in exclusive shops, and therefore, they too are disenfranchised. The service standards, self-promotion, marketing, etiquette and disciplines learned at that high-levels never reach them, but should be taught to all regardless of the level of their shop. Once again, the ‘rich’ get richer and the poor are left behind.

Shop concepts such as the SWAG PH flagship, test-market franchise concept, are very innovative. Their core belief is that “Success and a Great Look are for everyone…” and all should have the benefits of the ‘industry standard’ no matter the price of the cut, service or social status of the clientele.

The SWAG PH Concept, bypasses the ‘Reyes’, ‘David’s’ or ‘Brunos’ and competes head-to-head with the local shops. The SWAG PH Concept actually level-up the market and industry at-large and delivers the same –if not better- quality of experience for less than many low-end shops even do.
At SWAG PH for example, on their in-shop menu, haircuts are only P50 and P100; P40 and P80 with their SWAG VIP Card, rebonds start at P1,000, hair color is only P350+ for men and P500+ for women, and popular Olaplex Balayage color treatments start at P1,500. In addition, VIP’s can get an additional 20% discount and/or free upgrades.

The SWAG PH Slogan: “Get More, For Less…Guaranteed.” implies that guests can get all the healthy hair services they need (not just want), such as organics, Keratins, Brazilians, Olaplex and/or hair spas, for less than standard service prices at other shops.

SWAG Signature American Service Standards such as chair swiveling, 20% VIP Discounts, free beverages, free “SWAG Always & Forever Ganda/Pogi” maintenance services; such as hair spas, line-ups and wash and sets within a week after most services keep guests coming back!

The SWAG Business Model operates on the long-term mindset of larger market share, coupled with little or no standby time in the shops. Then, their lower prices, garner market share and economies-of-scale kicks-in. When the dust settles and the clippers and scissors are down, annual gross sales are believed to be the same –or more- as their local competitors’ shops or even a more expensive, yet less popular shop.

SWAG PH guests enjoy free beverages, soft drinks and coffee service. As well as, free shampoos and conditioning, blow drying and styling. In an effort to promote ‘healthy hair’ to the market, SWAG PH guests also receive free upgrades (a P250 value) to SWAG Organic products such as rebonds and hair color.

The SWAG PH business model is simple: lower prices, higher-quality and better-services, equals; more customer loyalty and more services per customer. A business-model adopted from the American beauty industry, which, over time, promotes healthier hair, a more attractive customer base, increased customer loyalty and staff tip levels, not often seen in the mainstream markets.

Additionally, SWAG PH usually recruits from mainstream or Masa shops and prefers to train and groom them. However, for professionals not use-to working with foreigners or at high-end shops, the services and standards can be daunting. Needless to say, it is not easy to be a Certified SWAG Pro Stylist or Barber and adhering to the seemingly strict time management and service standards turns away more than are hired. However, those who are able to rise to the occasion, do very well, enjoying higher tips, more regular customers, a air-conditioned, well-designed shop and international exposure.

Ultimately, the Philippines Masa Markets wins big, as shop entrepreneurs compete for their business. The long-term affect would be a more empowered low and middle beauty and grooming market which are able to bolster the same confidence as their high-end counter parts. As well as, an inherent level-up of the professionals who work in these ‘regular’ shops.

Most can easily imagine getting –or giving- a great experience when paying for P500 (that’s equivalent to $100+)for a haircut, or up to P8,000 for a rebond/perm and color treatment (Equivalent to $250+). However, imagine getting –or giving- that same experience, plus additional complimentary maintenance for the same P40 or P1,500 (equivalent to $25 or $85).

You can learn more about SWAG PH products, services, fill-out an on-line employment application and get franchising information at www.SWAGph.com or at /SWAGSalonPH on Facebook.

For development expertise, marketing and design consulting for your barbershop, salon or other business please visit www.KareemAntonio.com

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