When most people think “Hula,” their thoughts
go to one of two places: a luau on a tropical island or a hip-swiveling,
popular toy in the fifties. Apparently, the hula was popular with Sam Walton on both
Tale One: The Hula Hoop Craze
His first association
with the hula came when Sam saw the Hula Hoop craze taking hold back in the
five-and-dime days. Customer-focused merchant that he was, he wanted to make
sure he had hula hoops available for his customers when they came looking for
them. Unfortunately, the Hula Hoops were mostly earmarked for the big-city
stores, and were hard to get – and pricey.
Enter Jim Dodson
Okay, so even if Jim
Dodson didn’t want to sell Sam his store in Siloam Springs, (causing Sam to
open his first Walton’s 5 &10 in Bentonville), he still had some great
ideas. And Sam took to the one Jim shared with Sam one day: go in together,
50-50, and make their own Hula Hoops. Dodson knew where to get the plastic
tubing and even had some attic space where they could make them. And so
make them they did, and Sam kept many a customer happy with his homemade Hula
Jim later went on to
manage the Walmart store up in Columbia, Missouri, for about 15 years.
Tale Two: The Hula on Wall Street
It was 30 years ago this
month that Sam Walton made good on a promise to “do the hula on Wall
Street.” Despite the company’s growth, strength, and the traditional
Walmart optimism, Sam saw reaching an 8% pretax profit as unattainable.
Then-CFO David Glass saw it differently, and bet Sam that the company would
indeed beat the 8% and Sam would indeed do the hula on Wall Street.
“It’s part of our culture”
While Sam thought he’d
get away with slipping into New York to quietly do a hula in the shadow of the
stock exchange, Glass hired “a truckload of real hula dancers and ukulele
players.” Even more to Sam’s surprise was that his CFO had alerted the
newspapers and TV networks.
While Sam may have found it a touch
embarrassing, it showed his commitment to the 6th rule of his 10 Rules for Building a
Successful Business: Celebrate your
successes. And as Sam pointed out, “Don’t take yourself so seriously.
Loosen up and everybody around you will loosen up.” And so they did.
hula skirt that Sam wore on March 15, 1984, is housed in our heritage archives,
about to undergo the conservation process. Once that process is complete, it’ll
take its place in The Walmart Museum.
More on this in an upcoming post.
This post originally appeared on the Walmart Corporate blog, Walmart Today.