English Big Issue vendors have expressed concern about losing out on the traditionally busy Christmas sales period, as they prepare for a four-week coronavirus lockdown.
In accordance with government restrictions coming in on November 5, more than 1,000 vendors across England will be unable to work until December. This second lockdown comes at a particularly hard time, as the run-up to Christmas usually sees a spike in sales for vendors across the UK.
“For people like me who have been selling The Big Issue for years, this is what we do it for: that little burst in the summer and then that burst at Christmas,” said Dave Campion [pictured above], who sells the magazine in Dawlish, south Devon.
“I’ve got plans for next year and a lot of them hinge on me making a decent amount of money over Christmas.”
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Dave said that his job has been difficult ever since lockdown ended, with his previously good sales record taking a serious hit.
“It’s been really tricky. I used to class myself as probably one of the best sellers you’ve got, I’d sell 150 magazines a week as standard. But now, I’m doing a third of that if I’m lucky. It’s been like that the whole way through since lockdown ended.”
After 15 years of homelessness, Dave was one of those who was given a place in a B&B thanks to the Everyone In scheme, which saw 15,000 homeless people provided with emergency accommodation in hotels in March and April this year.
The local council has now provided him with a one bedroom flat, which he said is “probably the best place I’ve lived”. As a result, he said this lockdown will be “more comfortable, but more annoying [than last time] because we’re getting into the season where we’d be making decent money.”
London vendor Martin McKenzie said he had suspected that another lockdown was coming, so he has been stockpiling long-life food to see him through, but it will still be a serious blow to lose his income and his community of customers.
“It’s soul-crushing,” he said. “I’ve been doing everything carefully and safely and yet I’ll pay a high price for this lockdown. And I like being out here mingling with people, I don’t like sitting on my own.
“I’m going to be on my pitch right up until the last minute. They’re selling like hot cakes at the moment because everybody’s aware of the situation. And then… there is no plan for my income.”
Last time he was forced from his pitch, Martin said he relied on food banks and financial support from The Big Issue.
Throughout the previous lockdown, The Big Issue supplied hundreds of vendors with financial aid to help mitigate their lost income. Plans are in place to repeat this emergency support.
“The vouchers from The Big Issue were enormously helpful,” said Jim Pelham, who sells The Big Issue in Salisbury.
Like Martin, Jim was making the most of his last opportunity to sell the magazine before the restrictions came in. “You’ve caught me in a selling mode on the last possible market day. I’ve got a tie on and shiny shoes. And my motivated attitude,” he said.
Jim found himself sleeping rough for part of the time during the last lockdown, which was an extremely stressful experience. He has since started renting a room from friends and was relieved to have somewhere safe to live for the next four weeks.
With a bed and a roof over his head sorted, he too has been preparing for an enforced four-week break from selling The Big Issue. “I’ve been stockpiling secondhand books,” he said. “They give me a change of scenery in my mind’s eye.”
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