Big Issue rolls out cashless payment tech to sellers nationwide

The trial in seven cities allowed sellers to accept contactless payments and saw a significant uplift in sales.

Joe Lepper | 10th Sep 19

The Big Issue is to roll out a contactless payment system to its sellers nationwide following a trial.

The move sees the social enterprise link up with Swedish tech firm iZettle, which has developed a mini chip reader and software for mobles to enable payments.

The pilot took place in seven UK cities between December 2018 and May 2019 and showed the extent to which the cashless payment readers are helping Big Issue vendors to sell the magazine.

Mike Hall, a Bristol vendor, said: “Since I started using my iZettle card reader, I have seen my sales increase by a third, which is incredible.

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“It has been really important in attracting more customers to buy copies of the magazine from me and I am so pleased to be part of being able to offer contactless.”

On average a quarter of total sales by vendors in the trial were via their iZettle payment readers. Two sellers in the trial made around eight out of ten sales via cashless payments.

Promoting the trial via an online film is London seller Hugh Palmer who said that offering contactless payments have helped him to use his magazine sales to “fit back into society”.

“Before when it was cash only you would get days when people just didn’t buy the magazine from you,” he added.


Using tech to help microentrepreneuers

Big Issue Managing Director Russell Blackman said: “Big issue vendors are microentrepreneurs, effectively running their own small businesses. It has long been our intention to provide our vendors with the opportunity to cater for their customers’ needs and increase their ability to earn a legitimate income.”

“The Big Issue looks forward to, in partnership with iZettle,  rolling the initiative out nationally, in an effort to improve levels of financial inclusion for vendors, who often live lives that are blighted by poverty and who have difficulty accessing mainstream financial services and products typically offered by retail banks.”

Big Issue sellers buy each magazine up front at half the cover price.

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Edward Hallett, Managing Director at iZettle UK said: “We are proud to support The Big Issue and vendors across the UK as part of our ongoing effort to aid financial inclusion.

He added: “It is fantastic to give even more sellers access to the tools they need to stay on top of consumer trends and manage in an increasingly cashless society.”

The link up between iZettle and the Big Issue was initially looked at in 2013 when Big Issue seller Simon Mott found out about the company as a way of helping more of his customers buy the magazine.