By Gordon Hecht, Serta Simmons Bedding

Theodore Geisel, who you may know better as Dr. Seuss, probably never thought of himself as a business writer. He was the master of children’s literature, providing fun stories and life lessons in an easy-to-read format.

In 1954’s “Horton Hears a Who!” the good doctor tells the story of Horton, an elephant with an acute sense of service, loyalty … and hearing. Horton is the only one who can hear Whoville, a miniature town located within a floating speck of dust. Horton vows to protect the speck, declaring, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” The lessons taught in that book have real-life value that can build your business.

In our retail world we serve shoppers at all levels of purchasing, and many retailers promote to the low end — think about those ads with $99 twin mattresses, $199 recliners and $299 fridges. Those promotional items make a great statement: “We start out with the lowest price and we end up with the lowest price.” The disconnect comes when we beg people to shop our store and then dare them to buy!

The fact is that shoppers requesting those same very low-priced items you paid to promote are often the most underappreciated customers to cross your threshold. Whether implicitly or explicitly expressed, there is a tendency among salesclerks to underserve or dismiss those shoppers completely. If you ever hear grumbling on your sales floor about “$99 low-end customers” or “cheapskates,” then your store is more a victim of poor attitudes than poor shoppers.

Almost all the customers who enter your building or log on to your website have multiple merchandise needs. While they may be looking for the low-price item for today’s purpose, chances are good they may also need moderate or high-end products for another room or residence. A good example of that was me on a recent shopping trip.

We have an investment condo that we decided to sell. It was in good condition, but the living room carpet needed replacing. Color or quality was not a concern; speed and price were the main criteria for purchase. In my mind, based on no facts other than my opinion, I felt that $600 was an adequate budget for this project.

My first stop was a local flooring dealer where we had made multiple purchases in the past.

In the flooring business, $5,000 is a very common purchase amount, and $50,000 is not unusual. When I explained my piddly little project to the salesperson who greeted me, you would have thought I asked her to donate her spleen. I had the measurements, but she measured me up pretty well too, before showing me a carpet that would cost about $950.

I told her it was more than I was willing to spend, and she directed me via pointed finger to “the contract carpet that’s used for rentals.” I decided to shop elsewhere, now and forever, after she decided her caramel frappuccino was more important than me. Perhaps she would have shown more interest had she known we also budgeted several thousand dollars for all new flooring at our residence.

Small-ticket sales can build customer loyalty. Small-ticket sales also build your business. As my ever lovin’ bride likes to put it (in true Horton style), “A sale’s a sale, no matter how small.”  The best way to raise your average ticket is to convert all those zero-dollar guests into buying customers.

When you treat your shoppers like royalty for the little items, they will come back for the big ones. All you gotta do is ask them “What’s your next project?” But when you make your customer feel small on a little purchase, you’ll lose them today and tomorrow.

Gordon Hecht is Senior Regional Manager/Strategic Retail Group at Serta Simmons Bedding. You can reach him at ghecht@sertasimmons.com.