How our vendors are embracing the cashless revolution!

Cash is fast being left in the past. And we've been working for a year to help our vendors adapt to a cashless future.

As society continues to go increasingly cashless, we knew that we couldn’t allow our vendors to be left behind.

For the last year The Big Issue has been working with Swedish tech firm iZettle to give all of our vendors the chance to offer contactless payments.

It’s more than just a convenient way to pay for the magazine. Contactless is vital to stop vendors from being financially excluded – with 80 per cent of total payments in the UK now made via contactless. As people continued to carry less cash, our vendors were finding it harder to make a living.

The iZettle trial kicked off last December, starting out with 20 vendors across London, Bath, Birmingham, Bristol and Nottingham before card readers were made available to all vendors in September. So far, 133 vendors across the UK have gone contactless and in the past three months alone we have seen a 95 per cent increase in the number of vendors adopting the technology.

The impact on sales for vendors in the trial was immediate and significant. Several reported rises, some only slightly (eight per cent) while one saw their sales skyrocket by 290 per cent.

On average, a quarter of the vendors’ overall sales were made via cash payments, with two vendors making around 80 per cent of their sales without cash.

One vendor praised his cashless experience, saying: “I have gained a lot of customers who wouldn’t previously buy – my pitch is in a bank, so people are more confident using tech (phones, cards and apple watches) to pay.”

Another described how going cashless “gives me the edge over beggars and buskers”.

Vendors at transport hubs, in particular, saw a big uplift in sales, particularly between the rush-hour times of 7-8am and 4-5pm.

That was the case for Michael Hall, who sold The Big Issue at Bristol Temple Meads rail station until he recently secured full-time work at the WH Smith store near his pitch.

“The card reader really helped me and increased my sales by a third instantly,”

“The card reader really helped me and increased my sales by a third instantly,” he told The Big Issue. “I made the clever thing of sticking some stuff around it so I could put the machine around my neck and I had about 20 stickers all around me so it was very-well advertised!”

Michael was just one of 133 vendors went contactless this year, including 23 in the South West like him. London has the most vendors offering cashless payments with 58, while 14 sellers are doing the same in the Midlands. In the South East, five vendors have card readers while in East Anglia eight sellers are on board, alongside three in the North East. In Scotland, 15 vendors are selling with contactless, while there are further seven in Wales.

Vendors have also uncovered some unintended benefits from making the move to cashless, most notably how it has boosted their financial management as money goes straight into their bank account rather than leaving them carrying cash. However, two vendors have had their devices stolen – underlining how vulnerable sellers are to crime – while one vendor told us that not having to carry cash made them feel “safer”.

Going contactless can really make a difference – the poster boy for our big iZettle launch in September, Hugh Palmer, summed it up perfectly: “It’s promoting you and people think, ‘Ooh he’s got contactless, he must be OK.’ You fit back into society; before when it was cash only you would get days when people just didn’t buy the magazine from you.”