Advertorial from giffgaff

Transforming lives with a tap: how refurbished smartphones boost vendors' earnings and skills

Refurbished smartphones are not only enhancing magazine sales for vendors, they’re also broadening their digital literacy and daily life management, from family connections to online banking.

Illustrations by Fernando Volken Togni

Advertorial from giffgaff

It’s been a few months since we launched our partnership with giffgaff, equipping Big Issue sellers with refurbished smartphones so customers can simply tap the phone and go, without vendors needing to use a separate card reader. Big Issue frontline teams began distributing the phones, enabled with technology to take cashless payments, in the run-up to Christmas, traditionally the busiest time of year for magazine sales. The phones enabled vendors to increase sales in that crucial period, offering ease and efficiency for customers: no more carrying a separate card reader or connectivity issues.

Three Big Issue vendors wearing red jackets stand confidently against a yellow background, each holding up a refurbished giffgaff phone. The vendor in the middle displays a magazine with the Big Issue logo, while the others show the phone screens to the viewer.
Photo Credit: Exposure Photo Agency

And now, with over 50 vendors using their new phones, we are seeing many other positive impacts too. Digital confidence is growing, as are earnings, and it’s much easier for them to keep up to speed with the essentials of day-to-day family life. Bristol-based Maricica Tataru received the phone before Christmas, and saw a boost in her sales. “My customers are impressed with the phone and enjoy how easy it is to use,” she says. “It’s made selling the magazine a lot easier as my old phone was very slow and broken.” As with many vendors, Tataru has benefitted from the functionality of her phone, using it to call her family and keep in touch with her community on social media – essential connections that many of us take for granted.

Our partnership with giffgaff builds on our ongoing work to support vendors in an increasingly cashless world. In 2019, Big Issue frontline teams started supplying vendors with Bluetooth card readers, and have supported 1,326 vendors to accept contactless payments since then. But the refurbished phones from giffgaff eliminate the need for additional card readers, which also helps us to reduce our e-waste. “I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about how the tap-topay function has made selling magazines easier,” explains Felipe Ramirez, who heads up Big Issue’s nationwide cashless programme. “Vendors no longer have to carry – and charge – two separate pieces of equipment in order to make electronic sales.”

As well as offering a practical solution for contactless customers, the giffgaff partnership also represents increased digital inclusion for vendors, who are less likely to have regular access to connectivity than the general population. giffgaff ’s high-quality, refurbished phones – alongside support and training offered by our frontline teams – open up a world of digital skills and connectivity for vendors. “The first time I used my phone was a little difficult, because it’s my first iPhone,” explains Glasgow-based Brigitta Claudia, who was seen excitedly unboxing her phone on our social media before Christmas. “But now I’m used to the phone, I use it to make calls, to text, to use Facebook. My bank account is there, and sometimes when I go to the shop I pay with my phone too, it’s very cool.”

 The technology to enable cashless payments removed a barrier many customers face 

This increased confidence with online money management has also been noticed by Ramirez: “Vendors have become way more efficient at using online banking services, and are able to manage their finances more easily.” Neculae Bacrau, another Bristol-based vendor, has found his new phone equally helpful for magazine sales and everyday life. He’s seen his sales improve, and is able to use his phone for WhatsApp and Facebook – when it’s not being co-opted by his children, that is.

“My 14-year-old son uses it for selfies,” he says. “I have 100 selfies on my phone now.” Daniel Novac, a vendor from Wishaw, Scotland, is also enjoying the benefits. “I had a smartphone before but it was old, so I couldn’t get all the apps I needed,” he says. “Now I can get everything I need, so I’m very happy.” When we first spoke to techsavvy London-based vendor Marsilia Cimpeanu in November, she was looking forward to getting the most from her refurbished phone, and she wasn’t disappointed.

“Everything we do now is on our phones, so it’s so much better having one with up-todate software and apps,” she explains. “I use it for daily things. My boys’ school has an app where I can check what activities are going on, if there’s any after-school clubs. I’ve been using it a lot for checking the weather, when the buses are coming and when the shops were open over Christmas. Now that I have it for sales, I wouldn’t want to go back to using a card reader. This method is 100% better.”

“We know smartphones play a powerful role in digital and financial inclusion and it’s heartening to hear the impact the partnership has had on vendors so far,” says Ash Schofield, CEO of giffgaff. “Providing the technology to enable cashless payments removed a barrier many customers face when trying to support their vendor. “We hope that through continued distribution of our refurbished smartphones, more vendors will not only increase their income but also their technological skills and confidence.”

giffgaff has supplied 250 handsets in total, and we’ll continue distributing them to vendors throughout 2024, providing one-to-one support alongside each phone. “The phones will continue to enable vendors to increase their sales and generate more income for their families,” Ramirez concludes. “The partnership can also be a springboard for vendors to access additional services, which should encourage them to have more confidence in the workplace and how they can interact with their customers.”

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