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From Home Furnishing Business

Furniture Industry Wages: How Much are Store Employees Paid?

Wages across the U.S. job market have been slow to grow post-recession, despite a healthy economy and the lowest unemployment rates in decades and the furniture industry is no exception. The Great Recession brought with it a multitude of furniture and home furnishings store closures and the number of retail employees greatly diminished. The steady increase of furniture and home furnishings sales over the last 10 years has been slower to hit employees working in the stores, but in recent years many occupations have started to see an upturn in wage growth. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ March 2019 release of “Occupational Employment Statistics,” this month’s Statistically Speaking takes a look at employee wages in furniture stores and home furnishings stores across the variety of occupations. 

Across Distribution Channels

As expected, in major distribution channels that market furniture and home furnishings, retail management occupations carry the higher salary positions. Within management occupations, electronic shopping and mail-order houses pay the highest wages – both sales managers and purchasing managers -- earning a median annual salary above $115,000 (Table A). In general, purchasing managers earn the most among the management occupations – all above $100K, regardless of the distribution channel. Among administrative services managers, home furnishings stores paid the greatest median annual wage of $112,570. Furniture stores were near the bottom at $77,240.

Non-managerial occupations have been divided into two charts for clarity – Table B (Part 1) and Table B (Part 2). As a whole non-managerial positions among furniture and home furnishings retailers carry much lower wages than managerial positions. As shown in Table B (Part 1), by far both business and financial operations and computer and analytical jobs have the highest earnings in the non-managerial category – all earning over a $26 median hourly wage with the exception of building material and supplies dealers paying computer and analytical positions $19.42 an hour. Furniture Stores and Home Furnishings Stores are near the bottom at hourly wages of $27.24 and $26.92 respectively for business and financial operations occupations, compared to $29.54 for the top paying pure e-commerce companies. In computer occupations, Furniture Stores at $31.68 an hour are near the top, only exceeded again by pure e-commerce retailers at $40.76.

Shown in Table B (Part 2) are non-managerial occupations -- design, sales, office and administrative, and various warehouse and delivery positions. General merchandise stores is the lowest paying channel for non-managerial occupations, while electronic shopping and mail-order houses are the highest. Sales, office, and transportation occupations earn the lowest in non-managerial jobs – many below $15 an hour. Design/arts/media positions in furniture stores are the second highest earnings among the select distribution channels at $19.09 per hour, second to pure e-commerce and mail order retailers at $24.26. In sales and related occupations, furniture stores pay a median of $14.49 per hour while home furnishings stores are lower at $12.07. Interestingly, qualified installation, maintenance and repair occupations are among the highest paid non-managerial occupations across all of the selected distribution channels, with furniture stores averaging $17.83 per hour and home furnishings stores $18.59. As a group, transportation and material moving occupations are the lowest paying positions.

Number of Employees

With the exception of electronic shopping and mail-order houses, all the major furniture and home furnishings distribution channels have cut the number of employees since 2006 (Table C). The greatest loss occurred between 2006 and 2012 when furniture stores reduced employees by (-25.2) percent and home furnishings stores by (-11.9) percent. Since then, the distribution channels (except for electronics and appliance stores) have hired employees to fill the stores that survived the recession but amounts are still shy of pre-recession levels. Last year, the furniture industry employment totaled 224,390 and home furnishings store another 255,910.

Furniture and Home Furnishings Stores: 

Management Occupations

Drilling down from the broad management occupation categories into more detail for furniture stores and home furnishing stores, with the exception of administrative service managers, wages in furniture stores are generally higher. In 2018, administrative service managers in home furnishings stores were the highest paid management positions, earning a median annual wage of $112,570 compared to the same occupation earning $77,240 in furniture stores (Table D). This represents a 42.4 percent increase from 2012 to 2018 for home furnishings stores administrative service managers compared to a 21.4 percent increase in furniture stores (Figure 2). In furniture stores, financial managers are the highest paid management positions averaging $114,600 annually. Purchasing managers are the second highest management position in furniture stores at $107,180, similar to wages of $107,400 in home furnishings stores. Purchasing managers earnings increased 2012 to 2018 by 45.3 percent and 20.6 percent, respectively (Figure 1).  

On average, neither general managers, sales managers nor transportation, storage, and distribution managers have broken the $100,000 ceiling. In addition, the earning of GMs in furniture stores and home furnishings stores have had the lowest increase of all management positions over the last five years, growing only 1.6 percent and 0.9 percent respectively 2012 to 2018. GMs in furniture stores earned over $5,000 more annually than those in home furnishings stores – sales managers more than $13,000 and $15,000 for transportation and distribution managers (Table D and Figure 1).

Non-Managerial Occupations

Art and Design Occupations 

Non-management wages are reported in hourly wages. Interior designers in furniture stores have shown consistent median hourly wage growth (14.1 percent) from 2012 to 2018, compared to the much slower growth pace in home furnishings from 2012 to 2018 of 3.9 percent. (Table E and Figure 2). In 2018, Interior designers earned a higher median hourly wage in furniture stores ($21.90) than in home furnishings stores ($19.75).

Median hourly wages of merchandise displayer and window treatment occupations are consistent between both channels – earning between $15 and $16 an hour in 2018 (Table E).

Sales and Related Occupations

As shown in Table F, sales and related occupations are among the lowest paying jobs in furniture stores and home furnishings stores. These have also been the slowest in earnings growth. In both distribution channels, cashiers earn a median hourly rate below $12. Wages continually dropped for cashiers through 2012 to 2015 (Figure 3), before growing in recent years – most likely due to minimum wages going up in many cities and states. Retail salespersons make more in furniture stores with a median hourly wage of $13.94, compared to $12.40 in home furnishings stores. The most startling statistic is that between 2012 and 2018, earning for retail salespersons in furniture stores grew only 6.5 percent and 5.9 percent in home furnishings stores (Figure 3).

Office and Administrative Support Occupations

By far, executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants are the highest paid among office and admin support jobs – earning a median hourly rate of $29.20 in furniture stores and $26.68 in home furnishings stores (Table G and Figure 4). The executive admin jobs also had the largest increases from 2012 to 2018 – jumping 32.5 percent in furniture stores and 29.8 percent in home furnishings stores. 

Lowest paid among these positions are customer service reps, receptionists and information clerks, and stock clerks and order fillers – all earning less than a $14 median hourly wage. 

Transportation and Delivery 

Among transportation and delivery occupations in furniture and home furnishings stores, installation, maintenance, and repair workers are among the highest paid non-managerial positions, earning a median hourly wage of $17.83 in furniture stores and $18.59 in home furnishings stores (Table H). Although light truck or delivery services and drivers earn considerably less at $13.10 and $15.47 respectively, their wages have increased by 17.5 percent and 21 percent since 2012. 

No doubt furniture and home furnishings stores are feeling the pinch of increasing wages. With salaries going up nationwide, furniture and home furnishings retailers should be focusing on where to place their bucks so they can get the most bang in terms of competent employees that will add to the bottom line.

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