James is the operations director at third-generation, family-run independent bed retailer, Prestige Beds. Operating through four stores across Lancashire, Prestige was named the NBF’s Retailer of the Year in 2017 – and James has joined the awards’ judging panel this year.
How might a child describe what you do?
We sell comfy beds to lots of people to help them sleep better.
What’s the biggest long-term challenge you face?
Being predominantly a bricks-and-mortar business, our long-term challenge is finding ways to consistently drive footfall into our stores as we compete with the ever-growing online marketplace and the ease of purchasing a bed from your home. Alongside this, we’re also tackling never-ending economic crises, requiring us to ensure our offering is always attractive and affordable for everyone.
If you had 10 x your working budget, what would you spend it on?
I’d spend it on a couple of new delivery vehicles and more stock of our bestselling lines so we can offer faster delivery on more of our products.
I’d also add to my in-house digital marketing team, recruit a web developer to keep our website optimised with content and functionality, and invest more into targeted digital advertising across multiple platforms, including some targeted TV campaigns to grow brand awareness and attract new customers.
What would be the title of your autobiography?
‘All said and Dunne’.
What does ‘work/life balance’ mean to you?
A good work/life balance is extremely important to me, especially since becoming a dad for the first time earlier this year. Whilst I’m fully committed to the business and moving it forward, spending quality time with my young family is my top priority. I also understand the importance of looking after my health and wellbeing by giving myself time to relax and be present.
Who’s been your most influential professional mentor?
I’ve been influenced and inspired by many people during my working life, but I’d have to say that I’ve learned the most of what I know in business from my father and our MD, Joe Dunne, who is a big reason I am in the position I am now and able to lead the business assertively and with confidence.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t burn the candle at both ends quite as much, and read as many books as you can. Reading a lot has benefitted me so much over the last few years, improving my outlook and approach to business, learning mindfulness, bettering my approach to self care and subsequently my mental health – far more than partying for most of my 20s did.
What’s been your best day in business to date?
Winning our first NBF award in 2017 was very special and a proud moment for my family and all the team, but I’d have to say the day we finally reopened our stores after the first wave of the pandemic was my best day in business to date. There was an enormous sense of relief after so much uncertainty surrounding whether customers would come back in, and if we could survive. We had our best day of trading since I’ve been in the business, and we built on that in the months that followed.
What’s the biggest myth about our industry?
That a firm mattress is best for bad backs. Whilst they do benefit a lot of people, the fundamentals of getting a quality night’s sleep is by achieving optimum pressure relief and spinal alignment, with the correct balance of comfort and support from your mattress, aligned with your body weight, being key to that.
What should everyone in our industry either stop or start doing?
I’d like to see a stop to certain online retailers selling quality goods at ridiculously low and unsustainable prices, which is damaging to good retailers, forcing them to either slash their margins and price match, or lose the sale. This also devalues the products and brands.
Where do you see the industry going in the next 5-10 years?
Whilst ecommerce will continue to grow rapidly as technology continues to advance, I strongly believe that there will be a resurgence of bricks-and-mortar retailers and demand for the in-store experience, as customers again realise the importance and benefits of seeing a bed and lying on a mattress in-store whilst receiving sound advice with human interaction.
I also envisage significant advancements and greater demand for sustainable products.
This interview featured in September's Bed Buyer supplement.