While the French may be known for their high standards in everything from cuisine to luxury automobiles, they also have an adage: “Le meilleur est toujours le moins cher,” which roughly translates to “The best is always that which is affordable.” French Canadian hot tub manufacturer InnovaSpa is banking on this being a universal concept. The company, headquartered in Drummondville, Canada, in the province of Quebec, offers a wide range of rotationally molded plug-and-play portable spas, which Charles Goulet, company founder and president, says “prioritizes quality, comfort, relaxation,” and just as importantly —affordability.“
The dream was to make a product that would exceed expectations from the industry, being better designed with better ingenuity,” Goulet says. “But also, we wanted to listen to what customers wanted.” What customers wanted, he determined, was a bargain.
“Spending less budget doesn’t mean making something cheap,” Goulet says. “That was my whole thought…That’s what we strived for.”
Spending less budget doesn’t mean making something cheap. That was my whole thought… That’s what we strived for.Charles Goulet, InnovaSpa
Meeting that goal didn’t happen overnight. The company began in 2002 under the name InnovaPlas, manufacturing rotationally molded plastic and, eventually, entry steps for above-ground pools.
Fittingly, these products would serve as the company’s first metaphorical step into the recreational water industry.
In 2008, InnovaSpa acquired Lumi-O International, a manufacturer that after more than 30 years in business had developed a well-established line of spa units. This allowed InnovaSpa to branch out further into the hot tub market, but rather than immediately expanding into the U.S., Goulet says they chose to keep the business mostly contained to Canada, with only two hot tub models for sale. This way, it could take time to expand while maintaining both the company’s high standards in quality and its low price points.
Finally, in 2015, InnovaSpa moved its headquarters to Drummondville, investing in a 100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility that would be more suitable for expanding its spa production.
Over the past five years, Goulet says the company has worked and reworked its product designs to make sure the tubs not only look nice on a showroom floor but also feel comfortable when in use.
“We brought in 50 people to try these tubs,” says Eric Mercier, director of sales and marketing for InnovaSpa. “If one said, ‘Oh, my back doesn’t feel good,’ we changed all the molds. If someone said, ‘There is not enough space for my feet,’ we changed the mold. We did a modification to keep in mind tall people, small people, all different kinds of people.” Today, InnovaSpa employs more than 150 people and has more than 800 partner stores throughout the U.S., Canada, France and the U.K.
One of those partners is Pacific Pool & Spa in Sloatsburg, New York, which has been working with InnovaSpa for nearly 18 years. “I’m about quality and real value, not perceived value,” says owner Roy Robinson. “Real value. And what I’ve learned through the years is that everyone has certain needs.”
Robinson says that when COVID-19 took hold, there was a shift in consumer need. While there was a rise in interest in having a hot tub at home, Robinson says customers were also tightening their belts.
“People who didn’t necessarily mind spending $8,000 or $12,000 for a quality product now wanted to spend $6,000 or $7,000,” Robinson says.
According to the retailer, selling a customer a low-cost product that easily breaks would eventually hurt his bottom line, as much of his sales depend on word of mouth. With InnovaSpa’s tubs, however, he says he was able to sell customers something they could afford, that he felt confident they would not come to regret later.
“As a dealer, you have to stand behind the product yourself,” Robinson says. “A lot of the companies that use the term plug and play, they tend to build a not-so-good product that looks pretty but is not serviceable.”
Robinson adds that another reason he likes working with InnovaSpa is the company’s support for its dealers and communication regarding issues with a warranty or a faulty part. “You can only shine as good as the manufacturer that supports you,” Robinson explains.
During the past three years, keeping the lines of communication open with dealers has been a crucial part of surviving the upheaval of the pandemic, particularly as the manufacturer was using this time to grow its line from two hot tub models, the Fantom and the Storm, to five, with the introduction of the Stream, as well as a new collection, Pür Spas, which includes the Feeling, Spartan and Orion.
All six hot tubs are rotomolded plug and plays made for four-season use, and come with waterfall and LED lighting. The differences are in the amount of seating as well as massage experiences offered.
Juggling the launch of multiple new products during an unprecedented spike in demand was never part of the plan, but Goulet feels the experience helped prove his company’s resilience. “It got pretty messy, but we kind of pulled it off,” Goulet jokes.
According to Goulet, the company saw a 500% growth during the pandemic. With the release of the Orion as well as plans to expand deeper into the U.S. market, it doesn’t appear growth will be slowing any time soon —which brings to mind another French expression: “Battre le fer pendant qu’il est chaud,” or as it is known among English speakers, “Strike while the iron is hot.”