Big Interview with Tobin James

Tobin James, Managing Director of TEMPUR® UK, shares an insight into his furnishing industry career, who has inspired him the most and why health and wellbeing are at the forefront of consumer shopping behaviour.

Let’s start with you. Can you share a bit about yourself?

In my professional life I have had the privilege to work for three iconic furniture brands, G Plan, Ercol and now Tempur and the furniture industry has been a massive part of my life. I have been married to my wife Nina for 28 years and we have two grown up children.

What is your current job role and key responsibilities? 

I am Managing Director of Tempur UK and have been in this role since 2015. We are an omnichannel business with successful wholesale (selling to leading UK retailers), Ecommerce and Own store channels. We have a warehouse and our own transport team based in Hayes, West London and my role is to lead our talented team of 130 staff. I am also a member of the Tempur Sealy International Leadership team which means that I am involved in our International strategy which I hugely enjoy.

What do you love about your job?

Every day is different in my role which is hugely enjoyable and means I am always learning new things. I find this fulfilling and I appreciate how privileged I am to work for the world’s leading bedding company with many super talented people. 

What time is your alarm clock set for?

Seven A.M. is my time of choice but I rarely have a nine to five day so the demands of the day will dictate. I like a lie in at the weekend in my Tempur bed of course.

Why did you choose to work in the furnishing industry?

I grew up near High Wycombe and the furniture industry still had a presence there at that time. I joined G Plan Furniture on a Marketing Apprenticeship at the age of 16 and have been in the industry ever since. My first role was in the exhibition department, and I had to order the wallpaper and accessories for the display installations that were fitted in G Plan’s retailers. It was a great introduction into the workings of the industry at that time and I loved it.

Who do you most admire in the industry and why?

There are so many people I admire in the industry and it is very difficult to single out one person, but for me James Barker stands out as exemplary. He has led the evolution of Barker and Stonehouse from a regional independent furniture retailer to a design led, national furniture retailer with a unique identity. Their new store in Gateshead is amazing and very inspiring.

Have there been any special moments during your career?

I have achieved so much more than I ever dreamed of in my career and have had many fantastic experiences. After our Science Museum launch event in July, I told the team that it had been the highlight of my career – they were fantastic and made me extremely proud.

What is your favourite item of furniture you own and why?

Having spent 12 very happy years working for Ercol Furniture I have to admit to being a bit of a super fan of their mid-century pieces. I have a 1950’s studio couch in my kitchen which I love. I also have a Nathan Yong sideboard which I purchased from Heal’s a few years ago. It’s a bit of a show off piece but definitely worth it.

What do you think is trending within the industry at present?

Consumers are becoming much more aware of the importance of sleep for their health and wellbeing, and this will mean that they will be prepared to invest more in products that actively help them sleep better.

What would you change in the industry?

I advocate for focusing on the consumer and their needs. The industry is competing with many other consumer focused product categories and we need to offer aspirational products that demand the consumer’s attention and will improve their lives.

Can you share an insight into your future plans?

Leading Tempur UK and helping it reach its full potential, we are just getting started. The recent launch event at the Science Museum was a fantastic evening and a huge success. It’s been eight years since our last major product launch, so we wanted to do something special that celebrated both the new generation of Tempur products and also allowed us to look back at our achievements in partnership with our retail partners, which included us giving lifetime achievement awards to four of our early pioneering TEMPUR® UK retailers.

The new ranges will reach retailer’s floors in Spring 2024 so we have given ourselves a long lead in. This is important as every model in the extensive Tempur range will be replaced, and we want to make sure that the phase out of the old ranges and the phase in of the new is executed well. We know this is a big task but we have a talented team and we are confident we can do this well. We are also planning to launch a new TV advertising campaign around Easter next year.

What do you enjoy most outside of work / free time?

I am a bit of a cycling nut and I have an allotment in the village where I live and love to spend time there.

What might someone not know about you?

My wife and I cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats in 2021. We took three weeks to complete the 1,200-mile route and had a great time.

If you had a different career, what would it be?

I think I could have made it as a chef!

Finally, if you were an item of furniture, what would it be and why?

That would have to be a Tempur mattress – just the best!

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