Measures to suppress the coronavirus are going to have a huge impact on Big Issue vendors.
That’s why Big Issue editor Paul McNamee put out a rallying cry in this week’s Big Issue for readers to “stay with us in these tough times” and outlined ways you can get a copy of the magazine even if you can’t get to your regular vendor.
Cardiff seller Mark Richards plays a leading role in making that possible. As well as selling the magazine on his Park Place pitch, the 44-year-old works in our sales and distribution office in the Welsh capital on a Monday sorting out all the subscriptions for across the UK and beyond.
We're getting alot of questions about how we'll help @bigissue vendors and keep things moving at this tough time. Hope this answers some of the questions. We'll update over next few days as things develop https://t.co/u8nNDNXeMt
— Paul McNamee (@PauldMcNamee) March 16, 2020
Mark spends six hours putting the brand-new magazines in envelopes and personally signing each one before sending them out to readers.
It’s a job he has valued for five years, he told The Big Issue, and Mark is ready to react to increased demand if customers need to switch to a subscription to support vendors in the weeks ahead.
“Every Monday I come into the office from 8:30 until 2:30 and I open up the magazines and see where they need to go, whether it’s Wales, England or Scotland,” said Mark. “I enjoy doing the subscriptions. It gives me something to do rather than sitting around being bored and it is an income for me. I’d prefer to be busy rather than sitting around doing nothing.
“I’m definitely ready to manage more subscriptions – I already do 650.”
Last year, 27,000 people worldwide earned an income selling street papers, making a total of £23.4 million.
Mark has already noticed the impact that the coronavirus has had on footfall in Cardiff.
Vendors like Mark rely on the support of committed readers buying the magazine on the streets but with people staying away while the coronavirus continues to spread, sellers face a battle to maintain their income.
“Saturday was dead in Cardiff because everything had been cancelled due to what has been going on,” said Mark. “But you can have good days and bad days – it is hard work but I do put the effort in. I’m always the first one in and the last one going home in all sorts of weather.
“With this virus going around at the moment, people come past me and I say “good morning, would you like to buy a Big Issue” and I get told that “I don’t carry cash” so I’ve gone over to contactless. It’s a lot easier because not a lot of people carry cash nowadays.”
What can you do to support vendors?
The Big Issue is working on a number of solutions to support vendors during these trying times. As well as the physical magazine subscriptions handled by Mark, there are also several digital alternatives while the magazine is also available from The Big Issue Shop.
As Paul McNamee puts it in his column: “You will no doubt ask how these purchases will help vendors, particularly in the short term as they struggle with severely diminished income.
“We are committed to supporting our vendors throughout this time. That may involve direct financial support from a central pot. It will certainly involve referrals to partner organisations able to help. This, like much around coronavirus, is developing.”
To subscribe to The Big Issue magazine, head to bigissue.com/subscribe.