In 2007, Chris Robinson was profiled in the first issue of SpaRetailer. At that time, he had already worked 20 years at Lucite. Now Robinson is retiring after 39 years with the company.
He began his career working at the Remington Arms division of Dupont in 1980. He had a hunch Dupont would sell that division, so he moved to its acrylic division in 1987, taking on the spa sheet business in 1988. “[At that time] the biggest selling color was sequoia, with navy Microban introduced shortly thereafter,” Robinson says.
Dupont sold both the acrylic division (to ICI of London) and Remington in 1993. In 1998, the acrylic business was bought by private investor Jim Ratcliffe and Deutsche Bank and called Ineos Acrylics. The company was renamed Lucite International in 1999 under the same ownership. In 2009, Mitsubishi Acrylics acquired Lucite, which became part of Mitsubishi Chemical Holding a year later; that entity was renamed Mitsubishi Chemical Company in 2016. In 2018, Plaskolite purchased Lucite’s U.S. sheet business.
Robinson has been a familiar face in the hot tub industry. He’s been part of many industry groups, serving on and chairing committees. He started attending National Spa & Pool Institute spa council meetings in 1997, eventually joining the council and becoming the council chair. He served as the spa council representative to the NSPI board of directors for nine years. He assisted the NSPI when it reorganized as The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals. He also helped bring the International Hot Tub Association under the APSP in 2013.
Robinson helped implement an annual Lucite ski trip for manufacturers in 1989. “It started as a weekend getaway with a couple of California spa startups called Sundance Spas and Caldera Spas,” Robinson says. By 1993, it had evolved into an annual industry event, and was held each March with the top 15 spa company owners. The trip continued for 20 years with the purpose of bringing the industry together to discuss the state of the market, decide new colors for the following year and identify issues important to the growth of the industry.
With his association work and as a supplier to many hot tub brands, Robinson has watched the industry from an unusual perspective. Robinson says one of the biggest changes to the industry happened as spas became a global business through the 1990s. “By the early 2000s, the market and manufacturing was done on all continents,” he adds. “Manufacturing consolidation has occurred constantly but accelerated after the recession.” Robinson notes that there were about 100 North American spa manufacturers through the 1990s and today there are about 50.
In addition to his work bringing the industry together at Lucite and through APSP, Robinson oversaw innovations at Lucite, including the introduction of the Microban antimicrobial sheet, gemstone sheet, celestial granite sheet and the serenity series.
Robinson is looking forward to doing more skiing, restoring cars and traveling with his wife.
“It’s trite to say I will miss the people most, but it is true,” Robinson says. “I have had the pleasure of working alongside some of the best and most innovative people in this industry. We’ve worked hard to grow this industry and make it better as well as protect it from legislation and regulations that would strangle it. I am pleased to have been able to be a part of building an essentially new market category as it developed through the last 30 years. I have made many strong business relationships and many personal friends here and globally over my career.”
Upon hearing the news of Chris Robinson’s retirement I immediately had the thought of a bittersweet moment. It was sweet because I am extremely happy for Chris and his opportunity to step away to enjoy all that he has worked for these many years. It was bitter because our industry is losing someone who has made a big impact on it. Not only has Chris been a valued vendor partner for more years than I can count, he has also invested in our industry by serving the various trade associations that have existed over his long career. His willingness to commit to the hours required to get things done, not only as a member but a leader, as well as the insights he has brought have helped guide us to success via numerous key strategic initiatives. My congratulations go to Chris for an amazing career in our industry. I wish him well in the next step of his journey. He has earned it.
Chris Robinson has served on the Board of the APSP for many years with a keen eye on moving APSP toward a more productive future to serve its many professionals — always emphasizing education. Throughout his many years of leadership and service, he would constantly remind us of the enjoyment and attractiveness that portable hot tubs bring to our industrys’ customers and leadership. I, and others, always found Chris to be a clear thinker with a quiet demeanor who had a unique knack for getting the job done and building consensus. And he did all this with an unsuspecting sense of humor that those close to him came to appreciate and enjoy. I hope he doesn’t stray too far from this industry because having this guy around will always make a difference for portable hot tubs and the APSP.Carvin DiGiovani, vice president of technical and standards, APSP
In my 40 years in the hot tub industry, Chris Robinson stands out as a person who cared about our industry in a unique and singular way.
In all the roles he played in volunteer positions for the NSPI, the APSP and finally the IHTA , he always put the industry first and his ego last. He was willing to work with anyone in the industry, as long as it would benefit the industry. He played a key role in the merger of the IHTA with the APSP, providing the hot water industry with the strongest voice it ever had. His leadership and friendship to the hot tub industry will be sorely missed.Bob Lauter, CEO, Master Spas and former president/chairman of the International Hot Tub Association
Congratulations on your retirement, Chris! I wish you much success and happiness in this new chapter of your life. We are certainly going to miss you. You’ve been a great friend, industry champion and a huge asset to the IHTA. I am sure I speak for everyone in saying how much we really appreciate all you have done to support the portable hot tub industry over the years.Don Elkington, president, Coast Spas