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Home textiles pay off with higher salaries

ATHERTON, CA — Given the soft economy and treacherous retail environment, home textiles salesmen are working harder than they have in years, but at least they're getting well paid. In fact, the base salary of the average home textiles salesman jumped up by 24.6 percent this year, to $90,100 from just $72,300 last year, putting an extra $17,800 in that "average" salesman's pocket.

Adding in all the fringes, the total compensation package for the elusive average salesman moved up by 11.8 percent, to $101,000 from $90,300.

But before your run to your boss with this story, keep in mind that those are average numbers. While some are making more than you, others are making a whole lot less. Indeed, the range of base salaries examined by Westover & Associates, a California-based executive search firm specializing in the home furnishings industry, runs from a low of $31,000 all the way up to $250,000 for the highest-paid salesmen.

And keep in mind, too, that you got a raise this year. Your boss should be so lucky. With sales running flat to down for most home fashions suppliers, sales managers had their wings and their paychecks clipped this year, their base declining by slightly less than 1 percent, to $116,000 from $117,700 a year ago. And the average manager's total compensation fell even further, by 3.7 percent, to $142,400 from $147,900, as he took a $7,500 haircut.

For the purposes of the Westover & Associates Home Textiles Sales Salary Guide, a salesman is defined as a territory or account salesperson directly responsible for a physical territory, a line of distribution or specific accounts. "Sales managers," said Westover, "are defined as regional managers to vice presidents who supervise the territory and account salespeople."

And before industry execs start holding their hands out looking for more money, they should keep in mind that they are already among the better paid salespeople in America. "Home textiles salaries are historically higher than in other industries," said Catherine Westover, president of the executive search firm, and herself a veteran of textiles manufacturing. "At the sales level, average total compensation in home textiles is typically 150 percent higher than in other industries. The correlation between volume responsibility and salary is a main factor in the higher compensations," she pointed out. A home textiles sales representative averaged $24.7 million in dollar volume, she pointed out, up 13 percent from $21.8 million the prior year.

At the same time, she noted, the average sales manager's responsibility decreased by 12.6 percent, to $42.4 million from $48.5 million.

Salary is also closely pegged to who the salesman's accounts are. If he's selling to one of the "Big Five" — Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target, Sears or Penney — he's making more than his counterparts who don't, observed Michelle Falk, director of executive recruiting at Westover & Associates. "At the sales level, those with recent experience selling to these retailers averaged 17 percent more base salary, and 14 percent more total compensation than those who did not. Sales managers having responsibility for these accounts only made 3 percent more base and 1 percent more total compensation than those who did not."

Not unexpectedly, money comes with time on the job, and people in this business tend to accumulate years of experience. "Excluding sales experience in another industry, other positions within the home textiles industry, and home textiles buying, sales people averaged 13.6 years doing their job, a 20 percent increase over last year," according to the Westover guide. Managers logged even more time, an average 15.7 years in this year's survey, compared with 16.8 last year, a 7 percent decrease.

At the sales level, according to the report, "average base salary ranged from $75,300 at under five year's experience to $85,800 for those with over 26 years' experience. At the sales management level, base salary ranged from $98,800 for under five year's experience to $124,100 for over 26 years' experience.

The complete Home Textiles Sales Salary Guide is available from Westover & Associates at its website, www.westoverinc.com, or at (888) 978-6837.

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