Gender, Volume, Region Affect Jewelers’ Pay, Benefits

The good news for the jewelry industry is that, despite an uneven economy, most jewelry-store job titles saw modest to significant gains in compensation in 2004 compared with 2003, according to the results of JCK’s most recent salary survey.

The bad news is that while women made some salary gains last year, the gap remains between men’s and women’s salaries in most positions.

Out of 11 jewelry-store job titles that JCK tracks in its annual survey, seven saw compensation gains in 2004. Some of the traditionally lower-paid positions tended to register the biggest increases in median compensation. For instance, general sales associates and watch-repair people saw their compensation jump by 27 percent compared with 2003 figures, while office staff saw their total compensation increase by 20 percent. Assistant managers realized the largest pay gain of any position: from $33,515 in 2003 to $43,000 in 2004, a 28 percent increase.

There was no change in bosses’ (owners, presidents, chief executive officers) pay in 2004, with a median annual compensation of $75,000, the third consecutive year this figure has remained the same. Meanwhile, vice presidents took the largest pay hit of any job title in the study—from $55,000 in 2003 down to $45,000 in 2004, an 18 percent decrease. Of the top three store positions, only store managers saw median compensation rise in 2004: They took home $51,000 compared with $47,770 in 2003, a 7 percent increase. Interestingly, store managers as a group averaged higher compensation than vice presidents who answered the survey.

JCK’s annual salary survey, conducted in June, polled more than 600 retail jewelers from across the country ranging from single-store operators to chain stores. Some 200 retailers responded, ranging in size from under $300,000 to $2.5 million or more in revenues (although the vast majority of respondents run small to medium-size independent stores).

A sizable number of jewelers seem to be responding to the uncertain economy by relying more heavily on commissions and bonuses. Commissions and bonuses represented 20 percent of total compensation for owners, presidents, and CEOs in 2004, compared with 16 percent the previous year. While commissions/bonuses dropped as a percentage of compensation for vice presidents and store managers, they rose as a percentage of total pay for assistant managers and buyers.

More than half of survey respondents told JCK that commission is “good,” while 38.3 per- cent saw commission as “bad.” (Generally, those against commission say it disrupts the store’s “team” atmosphere by making salespeople too competitive with one another and too aggressive toward customers.)

In another move that helps keep payroll costs down, more than half of the jewelers surveyed (52.2 percent) say they offer their people a mix of cash and noncash bonuses and other incentives (with 47.8 percent offering cash-only bonuses).

The most popular noncash bonus is a draw between merchandise and paid trips, selected by roughly two-thirds of respondents (67.8 per- cent). This is followed by time off (58.9 percent); free dinners (41.1 percent); theater tickets (27.7 percent); and “other” incentives, including gift certificates, sporting events, spiffs, spa visits, T-shirts, and discounts for merchandise from other businesses (17.9 percent).

PAY FOR WOMEN LAGS BEHIND MEN

Although female median annual compensation increased at numerous positions, women still trailed significantly behind their male counterparts in pay for most positions.

By gender, men realized pay increases last year at owner/president/CEO, manager, assistant manager, gemologist/sales, general sales, watch repair, and office staff. Assistant managers were the big winners for men with a 25 percent pay increase; vice presidents and bookkeepers were the big losers, with a 13 percent drop in total compensation at both positions. For women, positions that saw pay increases in 2004 included manager, assistant manager, bench worker, general sales, and office staff. Female managers, assistant managers, general salespeople, and office staffers all saw their median annual compensation surge by at least 20 percent in 2004. In contrast, pay for female vice presidents dropped a whopping 26 percent.

Comparatively, women at the top earned only 59 percent of the median annual compensation earned by male bosses in 2004, according to the survey. In 2003, female bosses earned 72 percent of the median annual compensation taken home by male bosses ($55,950 versus $75,000).

In a major exception to the male-dominated commissions trend, male store managers earned commissions/bonuses representing 14 percent of total pay last year (compared with 20 percent in 2003), female store managers earned commissions/bonuses accounting for an astounding 37 percent of their total pay (versus 16 percent in 2003).

Interestingly, commissions/bonuses were fairly even for male and female salespeople, although men still took home the bigger paychecks, on average. For male salespeople, commissions/bonuses represented 20 percent of total pay in 2004 (versus 19 percent in 2003). This percentage matched commissions/bonuses as a percentage of total pay for female salespeople (who enjoyed a slight increase from 17 percent in 2003).

PAY BY REGION

Total median salaries varied significantly based on location in 2004. For instance, bosses in the Northeast took home the highest total pay at $114,200. Meanwhile, top store executives in the West earned total compensation of only $81,600, and pay in the Midwest and the South was approximately $90,000.

Other positions that saw wide pay variations by region included assistant managers, gemologists, and bench workers.

PAY BY STORE VOLUME

As one would expect, larger jewelry-store operations can afford to pay their people better than smaller stores, and JCK’s survey results reflect this reality.

As with other categories, men typically make more than women holding the same position, regardless of store size; however, the pay gap seems to shrink as the size of the retail operation increases. The one major exception is the owner/boss slot. For stores in the $1 million to $2.49 million–volume range, female bosses took home a median total salary of only $50,000 in 2004, while their male counterparts earned $82,915—a 40 percent difference. (Gender pay differences could not be compared for bosses working for stores with over $2.5 million in volume due to an insufficient sample size.)

HEALTH BENEFITS

One of the biggest areas of concern for all small businesses, including retail jewelers, is the steadily spiraling cost of providing health care benefits to employees. Many employers have responded to these escalating expenses by cutting their health care contributions and raising the employee’s contribution; others have dropped paid health coverage altogether.

In most benefit categories, the percentage of jewelers offering each benefit increased nominally from 2003 figures. If the survey is an indication, this could mean that the industry is slowly coming around to the realization that today’s employers need to offer their employees a strong benefits package to retain their best people and remain competitive in the market. Yet while a significant percentage of jewelers offer some level of health benefits, perhaps the real issue is how many don’t offer various benefits.

The most prevalent benefits offered by jewelry-store owners to their employees in 2004 were merchandise discounts, provided by 96 percent of survey respondents, and paid vacations, provided by 92.5 percent of respondents.

Slightly more than three-quarters of jewelry stores (76 percent) offered their employees medical insurance in 2004. This represented a small increase over the number of store owners offering medical insurance in 2003 (72.8 percent).

Paid sick leave is another key benefit offered by a majority of jewelers (65 percent in 2004, unchanged from 2003).

In comparing the percentage of jewelers offering various benefits since 2000, several trends become clear. First, a slow but steadily increasing number of jewelers have added medical insurance, educational support, and pensions to their benefits packages in recent years. Second, in the face of rising costs, an equally slow but steadily increasing number of jewelers are cutting back on crucial employee benefits such as maternity leave (both paid and unpaid), dental insurance, disability insurance, life insurance, and 401(k) plans.

The size of a company’s operation has a huge impact on the extent of its benefits package, the survey found. Case in point: Paid vacation was offered by 100 percent of the jewelry firms surveyed with volumes of $1 million or more. In contrast, less than half (46.2 percent) of the firms with store volume under $300,000 offered paid vacations in 2004.

Despite the huge disparity between the benefits offered by lower-volume stores compared with higher-volume stores, lower-volume stores actually showed real gains in terms of the benefits they provided for their employees in 2004 versus 2003. For instance, while 100 percent of higher-volume stores offered paid vacation as a benefit in 2003, only 38.5 percent of stores under $300,000 in sales offered it (compared with 46.2 percent in 2004). Likewise, the percentage of lower-volume stores offering various benefits increased slightly in virtually every category for 2004 versus 2003. This indicates that smaller stores are trying to spice up their benefits packages to keep their top people from leaving.

In relation to benefits, JCK also queried jewelers on the number of sick days they offered their employees, as well as the amount of vacation time they gave their staff. The results: most jewelers offer employees one to five days of paid sick time and six to 10 days (up to two working weeks) of paid vacation time.

For vacation days, more than half (53.8 per- cent) of jewelers with sales of $2.5 million or greater offered their employees six to 10 days of paid vacation in 2004. Meanwhile, only 23.1 percent of jewelers with volume under $300,000 offered the same amount of paid days. Surprisingly, slightly more jewelers in the $700,000 to $999,999 sales category (25.8 percent) offered their employees six to 10 days of paid vacation last year compared with jewelers with sales of $2.5 million or more (25 percent).

2004 Median Annual Compensation (All Stores)

JOB TITLE BASE PAY TOTAL PAY TOTAL PAY RANGE
Owner, President, CEO (men) $63,000 $78,000 $12,500–$1,000,000
Owner, President, CEO (women) $42,000 $46,000 $16,200–$228,500
Vice President (men) $50,500 $61,200 $10,800–$190,000
Vice President (women) $30,000 $35,000 $15,000–$500,000
Manager (men) $45,000 $52,000 $32,380–$225,000
Manager (women) $35,000 $55,500 $17,000–$225,000
Assistant Manager (men) $35,500 $45,500 $24,090–$87,000
Assistant Manager (women) $35,000 $40,000 $12,000–$87,000
Buyer (men) * * *
Buyer (women) $39,525 $42,500 $20,800–$52,000
Gemologist/Sales (men) $39,500 $40,000 $21,000–$83,000
Gemologist/Sales (women) $33,000 $35,000 $20,000–$50,000
Benchworker (men) $36,450 $38,000 $15,000–$95,000
Benchworker (women) $35,000 $37,695 $20,665–$70,000
General Sales (men) $30,000 $36,000 $12,725–$120,000
General Sales (women) $25,920 $32,500 $10,250–$120,000
Watch Repair (men) $40,000 $46,000 $25,000–$60,000
Watch Repair (women) * * *
Bookkeeper/Accountant (men) $35,050 $35,050 $15,000–$86,000
Bookkeeper/Accountant (women) $30,930 $32,175 $12,900–$80,000
Office Staff (men) $26,000 $27,000 $14,560–$87,250
Office Staff (women) $30,000 $30,000 $10,000–$65,000
All figures from JCK’s Annual Salary Survey, unless otherwise noted.
*Sample size yielded insignificant figures.
JOB TITLE BASE PAY TOTAL PAY TOTAL PAY RANGE
Owner, President, CEO $60,000 $75,000 $12,500–$1,000,000
Vice President $38,800 $45,000 $10,800–$500,000
Manager $45,000 $51,000 $17,000–$225,000
Assistant Manager $35,000 $43,000 $12,000–$87,000
Buyer $35,050 $41,000 $20,800–$130,000
Gemologist/Sales $33,000 $35,000 $20,000–$65,000
Benchworker $35,000 $38,000 $15,000–$95,000
General Sales $26,000 $33,000 $10,250–$120,000
Watch Repair $40,000 $46,000 $18,720–$60,000
Bookkeeper/Accountant $30,930 $32,600 $12,900–$86,000
Office Staff $30,000 $30,000 $10,000–$87,250

2004 Median Salaries by Sales Volume

*Sample size yielded insignificant figures.
JOB TITLE BASE PAY COMMISSION TOTAL PAY RANGE
$300,000-$699,999
Owner, President, CEO $38,000 $5,000 $16,200–$100,000
Vice President $22,500 * $10,800–$45,000
Manager $40,000 * $17,000–$65,000
Assistant Manager * * *
Buyer * * *
Gemologist/Sales * * *
Benchworker $33,000 * $20,665–$50,000
General Sales $25,000 $2,569 $15,600–$38,000
Watch Repair * * *
Bookkeeper/Accountant * * *
Office Staff * * *
$700,000–$999,999
Owner, President, CEO $57,500 $25,000 $25,000–$120,000
Vice President * * *
Manager $45,000 $5,000 $30,000–$65,000
Assistant Manager * * *
Buyer * * *
Gemologist/Sales * * *
Benchworker $33,500 $2,500 $26,000–$60,000
General Sales $23,480 $2,000 $14,400–$48,800
Watch Repair * * *
Bookkeeper/Accountant * * *
Office Staff * * *
$1 Million–$2,499,999
Owner, President, CEO $55,000 $40,000 $30,000–$250,000
Vice President $35,000 * $19,660–$105,000
Manager $40,715 * $18,630–$71,000
Assistant Manager $31,800 * $31,200–$39,500
Buyer * * *
Gemologist/Sales $40,000 $5,000 $35,000–$83,000
Benchworker $32,500 $1,200 $15,000–$70,000
General Sales $21,000 $4,000 $13,355–$67,000
Watch Repair * * *
Bookkeeper/Accountant $30,800 $3,000 $12,900–$49,000
Office Staff $25,730 $3,650 $10,000–$36,200
$2.5 Million or More
Owner, President, CEO $127,400 $70,000 $60,000–$1,000,000
Vice President $70,000 $30,000 $60,000–$500,000
Manager $48,175 $11,000 $30,580–$225,000
Assistant Manager $40,000 $45,580 $24,090–$87,000
Buyer $44,000 $3,000 $20,800–$130,000
Gemologist/Sales $33,000 $5,000 $20,000–$70,000
Benchworker $40,000 $3,000 $25,000–$95,000
General Sales $31,600 $10,000 $10,250–$120,000
Watch Repair $42,500 $6,000 $24,960–$60,000
Bookkeeper/Accountant $35,000 $4,000 $15,000–$86,000
Office staff $30,000 $1,000 $11,505–$87,250

2004 Commissions and Bonuses (All Stores)

*Sample size yielded insignificant figures.
JOB TITLE MEDIAN COMMISSION RANGE
Owner, President, CEO (men) $30,000 $12,500–$1,000,000
Owner, President, CEO (women) $50,000 $16,200–$228,500
Vice President (men) $13,000 $10,800–$190,000
Vice President (women) $10,000 $15,000–$500,000
Manager (men) $11,000 $32,380–$225,000
Manager (women) $7,750 $17,000–$225,000
Assistant Manager (men) $6,000 $24,090–$87,000
Assistant Manager (women) $7,500 $12,000–$87,000
Buyer (men) * *
Buyer (women) $3,000 $20,800–$52,000
Gemologist/Sales (men) $5,000 $21,000–$83,000
Gemologist/Sales (women) $5,500 $20,000–$50,000
Benchworker (men) $3,000 $15,000–$95,000
Benchworker (women) $2,000 $20,665–$70,000
General Sales (men) $10,000 $12,725–$120,000
General Sales (women) $5,000 $10,250–$120,000
Watch Repair (men) $7,000 $25,000–$60,000
Watch Repair (women) * *
Bookkeeper/Accountant (men) * $15,000–$86,000
Bookkeeper/Accountant (women) $3,000 $12,900–$80,000
Office Staff (men) $640 $14,560–$87,250
Office Staff (women) $2,750 $10,000–$65,000

What noncash bonuses do you give? (112 responses)

*Includes: gift certificates, spiffs, spa visits, sports events, T-shirts, trade with local businesses.
Merchandise 67.8%
Dinner 41.1%
Time Off 58.9%
Trips 67.8%
Theater Tickets 27.7%
*Other: 17.9%

Cash and noncash bonuses: (138 responses )

Pay a bonus in cash only? 47.8%
Pay bonus cash and noncash? 52.2%

2004 Median Salaries (All Stores)

*Sample size yielded insignificant figures.
JOB TITLE BASE PAY COMMISSION TOTAL PAY RANGE
NORTHEAST
Owner, President, CEO $49,200 $65,000 $12,500–$250,000
Vice President $36,900 * $10,800–$232,220
Manager $48,000 $10,000 $18,630–$145,000
Assistant Manager $45,000 $12,000 $31,200–$87,000
Buyer $44,000 * $41,000–$45,000
Gemologist/Sales $33,000 $4,000 $21,000–$56,000
Benchworker $35,000 $2,500 $20,665–$52,000
General Sales $25,000 $4,500 $13,355–$60,805
Watch Repair * * *
Bookkeeper $32,000 $3,000 $12,900–$86,000
Office $30,000 $2,000 $17,200–$39,000
MIDWEST
Owner, President, CEO $63,100 $27,500 $25,000–$707,165
Vice President $36,700 * $25,000–$151,955
Manager $40,000 $10,000 $19,760–$93,985
Assistant Manager $33,650 $5,200 $20,000–$58,580
Buyer * * *
Gemologist/Sales $50,000 $5,000 $23,000–$83,000
Benchworker $38,500 $1,950 $20,000–$95,000
General Sales $25,000 $7,000 $11,900–$95,000
Watch Repair * * *
Bookkeeper/Accountant $32,750 $4,000 $15,000–$67,235
Office Staff $30,750 $500 $14,415–$87,250
WEST
Owner, President, CEO $60,000 $21,600 $26,000–$1,000,000
Vice President $30,000 * $19,660–$500,000
Manager $52,000 $11,000 $30,000–$225,000
Assistant Manager * * *
Buyer * * *
Gemologist/Sales * * *
Benchworker $38,900 $2,000 $15,000–$72,800
General Sales $31,400 $3,000 $10,250–$120,000
Watch Repair * * *
Bookkeeper/Accountant $30,930 $2,750 $22,880–$80,000
Office Staff $27,980 * $11,505–$65,000
SOUTH
Owner, President, CEO $60,000 $30,000 $18,000–$181,020
Vice President $50,000 * $15,000–$70,000