Working Harder

Compensation among jewelers nationwide in 2002 didn’t change much from 2001, according to results of JCK‘s most recent salary survey, but many employees were compelled to work harder for whatever increases they did get. A year ago, of course, the number of those out of work was climbing (700,000 lost their jobs in 2002, according to government figures), and war in Iraq was pending—which might help explain why jewelers were forced to control costs the way they did.

Total pay for all job titles, for all stores, increased. General sales associates, vice presidents, and assistant managers in particular saw the biggest gains, with 27%, 22%, and 20% increases, respectively. All other positions enjoyed reasonable financial gains (see chart “Total Pay Differences 2001-2002”). The survey’s key finding however, is how these employees ultimately got their increases.

Base pay for upper managers and gemologists suffered. (See chart “Base Pay & Commission Differences 2001-2002”.) CEOs in the Midwest and Northeast lost ground—anywhere from 5%-8%—while those in the West remained stagnant and storeowners in the South enjoyed increases. Vice presidents in the Northeast saw base pay drop 8% overall, and in the West the overall drop was 15% from the previous year. VPs in the other two regions saw some gains. Gemologists/sales associates in the Midwest and West also saw their base pay shrink, some as much as 22%. Other notable drops were decreases among managers in the West and in the South, office staff in the West and Midwest, and no base pay increases at all among watch repairers in the West and Midwest.

Looking at the data according to stores’ sales volume, some losses in base pay also are evident. In stores with lower revenues (under $300,000), benchworkers and general sales associates saw base pay drop 16.7% and 18.2%, respectively. In other categories, CEOs and vice presidents were hardest hit: In stores with volumes between $300,000-$699,999, base pay for these groups dropped 16.3% and 12.2%, respectively; in stores with volumes of $700,000-$999,999, base pay for these executives dropped 4% and 11.2%, respectively; and CEOs in the $2.5 million or more category experienced a 16.7% drop in base pay.

Most positions, however, saw commissions grow, which helped pick up the economic slack (see chart “Base Pay & Commission Differences 2001-2002”). CEOs in the Northeast nearly tripled the size of their commissions, gemologists/sales associates in the Midwest more than quadrupled the size of theirs, and vice presidents from the West doubled theirs, while other employees enjoyed varying increases.

Viewing survey results by store volume, higher commissions seem to have filled the void left by drops in base pay for some. While general sales associates in the under $300,000 store volume category saw base pay contract, their commissions mushroomed, seeing nearly 300% growth. Ditto for gemologists/sales associates in stores with revenues of $1 million to $2,499,999, who saw base pay shrink nearly 30% but commissions proliferate with 177% growth. And CEOS in the $300,000-$699,999 category experienced a 36.4% rise in commissions despite a drop in base pay.

Where base pay suffered, commission gains were almost always noticeable, but in companies where base pay didn’t take a hit, commissions were either stagnant or lost ground. Consider assistant managers nationwide: In the Midwest, base pay grew 40% while commissions contracted 25%; in the Northeast, base pay rose nearly 7% while commissions dropped more than 4%; in the West, base pay rose 20% and commissions shrank almost 30%; and in the South—the region least affected by 2002 changes—base pay escalated just 2.5% while commissions increased 18%.

Looking at assistant managers by store volume categories reveals similar results. Those who work in stores with revenues of $1 million to $2,499,999 saw base pay grow 7.3% while commissions fell nearly 44%. For the same workers in the $2 million and more range, base pay grew 41.4% while commissions were stagnant.

Few employees enjoyed economic growth in base pay and commissions. One notable exception was general sales associates in the South, who earned 19% base pay increases and 50% growth in commissions.

Exceptions also are noticeable among stores with revenues in the $1 million to $2,499,999 range. For the most part, these employees saw growth in both base pay and commissions, particularly managers, with 23.4% and 50% growth, respectively; gemologists/sales associates with 6.7% and 114.3%; general sales associates with 31.8% and 146.6%; bookkeepers with 17.7% and 56.7%; and office staff with 20.2% and 66.7%.

One consistent result was in the area of benefits—all lost some funding and support. Most hurt were employees who enjoy 401(k) plans and health insurance, as fewer stores in 2002 offered these benefits vs. 2001. The number of stores offering 401(k) plans declined 6%, while the number offering health insurance dropped 6.4%. Least affected were those who took advantage of unpaid maternity leave, as only 1% fewer stores offered this benefit. However, every category of benefits—even merchandise discounts, which can encourage customers to buy jewelry if they admire designs worn by employees—was cut by all stores queried.

While women’s income still pales in comparison to that of men, females outshone their male counterparts with commissions earned at many job levels. Female CEOs, vice presidents, and gemologists earned 20%, 71%, and 31.6%, respectively, more than males in the same job titles this year. Meanwhile, female office staff workers and assistant managers earned commission amounts equal to those of their male counterparts. That’s a big difference from last year’s survey, in which men out-earned females in all upper-management jobs, and women’s commissions exceeded men’s in only four non-executive categories—and not by much.

Total Pay Differences 2001-2002, All Stores

Job Title 2002 2001 % Difference
*This year marks the first time “buyer” is surveyed and calculated as a separate position apart from owner, vice-president, or manager.
Owner, President, CEO $75,000 $70,000 7.1%
Vice president $57,000 $46,8000 21.8%
Manager $50,000 $46,177 8.3%
Assistant manager $36,000 $30,075 19.7%
Buyer* $47,000 N/A N/A
Gemologist/Sales $40,000 $37,440 6.8%
Benchworker $39,500 $37,000 6.8%
General sales $33,000 $26,000 26.9%
Watch repair $40,000 $35,200 13.6%
Bookkeeper/Accountant $37,000 $34,800 6.3%
Office staff $24,000 $21,215 13.1%

2002 Median Annual Compensation All Stores

Job Title Base Pay Total Pay Total Pay Range
All figures from JCK’s Annual Salary Survey, unless otherwise noted.
*Sample size yielded insignificant figures.
Owner, Pres., CEO (men) $63,275 $75,000 $15,000 – $1,000,000
Owner, Pres., CEO (women) $50,000 $55,950 $21,740 – $225,000
Vice president (men) $67,675 $74,250 $30,000 – $195,000
Vice president (women) $40,000 $42,000 $12,630 – $500,000
Manager (men) $45,000 $55,200 $23,400 – $175,000
Manager (women) $40,000 $45,000 $16,640 – $175,000
Assistant manager (men) $30,346 $34,823 $28,000 – $86,000
Assistant manager (women) $31,000 $36,000 $17,600 – $81,000
Buyer (men) $50,000 $58,695 $20,000 – $100,000
Buyer (women) $40,000 $40,100 $14,000 – $70,000
Gemologist/Sales (men) $30,000 $44,000 $16,000 – $60,000
Gemologist/Sales (women) $29,700 $40,000 $24,000 – $60,000
Benchworker (men) $36,000 $40,000 $12,000 – $80,600
Benchworker (women) $30,100 $34,320 $18,560 – $55,000
General sales (men) $31,000 $36,000 $10,700 – $120,000
General sales (women) $25,000 $30,836 $10,000 – $120,000
Watch repair (men) $40,000 $40,000 $15,600 – $60,000
Watch repair (women) * * *
Bookkeeper/Accountant (men) $45,100 $50,000 $28,000 – $95,000
Bookkeeper/Accountant (women) $35,000 $36,500 $18,000 – $80,000
Office staff (men) $27,969 $28,000 $12,600 – $57,200
Office staff (women) $21,840 $22,362 $10,000 – $50,000

Base Pay & Commission Differences 2001-2002, By Store Volume

Job Title 2002 Base Pay 2001 Base Pay % Diff. 2002 Com. 2001 Com. % Diff.
* Sample size yielded insignificant figures.
Less than $300,000
Owner, President, CEO * * * * * *
Vice president * * * * * *
Manager * * * * * *
Asst. manager * * * * * *
Buyer * * * * * *
Gemologist/Sales * * * * * *
Benchworker $20,800 $24,960 -16.7% $22,100 * N/A
General sales $17,990 $22,000 -18.2% $4,680 $1,200 290%
Watch repair * * * * * *
Bookkeeper/Accountant * * * * * *
Office staff $17,680 * * * N/A *
$300,000-$699,999
Owner, President, CEO $35,000 $41,800 -16.3% $12,000 $8,800 36.4%
Vice president $23,100 $26,300 -12.2% * $7,500 N/A
Manager $37,000 $24,000 54.2% $11,000 $2,500 340%
Asst. manager $21,500 $21,450 0% * $2,000 N/A
Buyer $20,000 * N/A * * N/A
Gemologist/Sales N/A $36,000 N/A N/A $3,500 N/A
Benchworker $30,000 $26,000 15.4% $500 $3,000 -83.3%
General sales $24,960 $18,720 33.3% $5,000 $2,000 150%
Watch repair * * * * * *
Bookkeeper/Accountant $31,600 * N/A * * N/A
Office staff $21,103 $18,820 12.1% $981 $1,450 32.3%
$700,000-$999,999
Owner, President, CEO $48,000 $50,000 -4% $12,100 $15,000 -19.3%
Vice president $35,000 $39,400 -11.2% $6,000 $5,647 6.3%
Manager $37,700 $34,000 10.9% $7,600 $5,000 52%
Asst. manager * $18,720 N/A * $8,700 N/A
Buyer * N/A N/A * * *
Gemologist/Sales $24,000 $40,000 40% $3,500 $4,520 -22.6%
Benchworker $36,000 $35,000 2.9% $2,000 $2,000 0%
General sales $22,000 $22,000 0% $2,000 $3,887 -48.6%
Watch repair * * * * * *
Bookkeeper/Accountant $30,075 $25,500 17.9% $3,500 $5,800 39.7%
Office staff $21,840 $18,000 21.3% $1,750 $1,000 75%
$1 million-$2,499,999
Owner, President, CEO $75,000 $57,200 31.1% $25,000 $30,000 16.7%
Vice president $50,000 $45,000 11.1% $10,000 $15,000 -33.3%
Manager $41,000 $40,000 25% $10,000 $10,000 0%
Asst. manager $30,000 $27,950 7.3% $4,500 $8,000 -43.8%
Buyer $30,000 N/A N/A $22,000 N/A N/A
Gemologist/Sales $20,000 $27,500 -27.3% $18,000 $6,500 176.9%
Benchworker $35,000 $34,000 2.9% $5,000 $2,000 150%
General sales $24,960 $21,286 17.3% $5,000 $4,000 25%
Watch repair * $27,520 N/A * $2,500 N/A
Bookkeeper/Accountant $35,000 $26,000 34.6% * $7,000 N/A
Office staff $20,000 $20,000 0% $1,500 $2,000 -25%
$2.5 million or more
Owner, President, CEO $100,000 $120,000 -16.7% $50,000 $42,500 17.7%
Vice president $80,000 $75,000 6.7% $27,500 $27,500 0%
Manager $45,000 $36,475 23.4% $15,000 $10,000 50%
Asst. manager $35,350 $25,000 41.4% $5,090 $6,000 0%
Buyer $44,600 N/A N/A $6,650 N/A N/A
Gemologist/Sales $40,500 $37,950 6.7% $7,500 $3,500 114.3%
Benchworker $40,000 $35,000 14.3% $5,000 $3,000 66.7%
General sales $29,000 $22,000 31.8% $8,000 $3,244 146.6%
Watch repair $40,000 $40,000 0% $3,000 $1,140 163.2%
Bookkeeper/Accountant $40,000 $34,000 17.7% $4,700 $3,000 56.7%
Office staff $25,000 $20,800 20.2% $2,000 $1,200 66.7%

Employee Turnover

Turnover Rate Number of Stores
0% 147 (64.5%)
1-5% 6 (2.6%)
6-10% 19 (8.3%)
11-15% 13 (5.7%)
16-20% 19 (8.3%)
25%+ 24 (10.5%)

Base Pay & Commission Differences 2001-2002, All Stores

Job Title 2002 Base Pay 2001 Base Pay % Diff. 2002 Com. 2001 Com. % Diff.
Northeast
Owner, President, CEO $70,000 $65,000 -7.7% $53,000 $19,000 179%
Vice president $62,840 $67,500 -6.9% $25,000 $20,000 25%
Manager $45,000 $36,660 22.8% $11,000 $10,000 10%
Asst. manager $36,925 $22,000 6.8% $4,000 $7,000 4.3%
Buyer $40,000 N/A N/A $3,000 N/A N/A
Gemologist/Sales N/A $34,000 N/A N/A $2,000 N/A
Benchworker $35,000 $35,000 0% $2,000 $3,000 -3.3%
General sales $30,977 $28,300 9.5% $3,000 $3,000 0%
Watch repair N/A $45,500 N/A N/A $1,000 N/A
Bookkeeper/Accountant $32,000 $27,480 16.5% $1,000 $5,500 -81.2%
Office staff $25,000 $23,200 7.8% $2,080 $2,000 4%
Midwest
Owner, President, CEO $57,200 $60,000 -4.7% $16,000 $15,000 6.7%
Vice president $50,000 $47,850 4.5% $11,000 $10,000 10%
Manager $44,000 $40,000 10% $10,000 $10,000 0%
Asst. manager $30,000 $21,450 39.9% $7,500 $10,000 -25%
Buyer $47,000 N/A N/A $5,296 N/A N/A
Gemologist/Sales $29,700 $35,950 -17.4% $20,000 $3,069 551.7%
Benchworker $37,500 $35,000 7.1% $3,500 $2,000 75%
General sales $26,000 $24,725 5.2% $10,000 $5,040 9.8%
Watch repair $35,5000 $35,000 0% N/A N/A N/A
Bookkeeper/Accountant $44,050 $32,000 37.7%