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Sponsored by Citroen

Why our Citroën electric vans are a bright light for vendors

As harsh weather starts to bite, our new EV fleet is proving key in our mission to support Big Issue vendors at this crucial time of year. Jamie Atkins discovers how our partnership with Citroën really is driving change for good

Sponsored by Citroen

For Big Issue vendors our delivery vans are crucial. The vehicles not only supply vendors with magazines to sell, they’re a bright light that represents hope, community and security. This is most keenly felt during winter, as we approach the festive season. It’s the busiest time of year for vendors and, because of often-harsh weather conditions, the most challenging. 

Big Issue’s partnership with Citroën will see us replace our existing diesel vans with greener and more reliable electric vehicles, ensuring that our sellers are given the support they need during tough times, while saving us money and helping the environment.

Vehicles will be ‘vital’ over Christmas

Holly O’Connor, Big Issue Midlands Regional Manager, confirms how vital the vehicles will prove in the coming weeks. “Over Christmas we work all hours, getting magazines out to the vendors and making sure that they’re alright on their pitches,” she explains. “We do lots more deliveries, direct to them, so that they can maximise their time on their pitch and sales. We need that flexibility to be there when they need us. 

“I think a lot of vendors really like the vibe at Christmas – how busy it is and how much of an interest the public take in them at that time of year. The sales of the magazine increase massively, the vendor numbers increase massively, and the demand for magazines increases as well. 

“I’ve met vendors halfway between our offices and their pitch, so that they can get magazines straight away. Without the vans, we wouldn’t be able to do that.”

“I’ve met vendors halfway between our offices and their pitch, so that they can get magazines straight away. Without the vans, we wouldn’t be able to do that.”

Holly, Big Issue Midlands Regional Manager

Making the most out of the festive period is especially important, given the comparatively lean months ahead. “January is always a bit of a tough time to sell,” Holly continues. “And so, vendors want to maximise their income over the busy period, to act as a bit of a buffer for the harder months. Some of them have families and dependents that they need to support. We always say, ‘build your pitch up, because Christmas is when it’s going to really pay off.’”

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Big Issue/Citroen collaboration @ Lewes, Sussex. Chris Falcji-Stead

Christmas is critical

Paul Logan who sells the magazine at Liverpool Street, one of London’s busiest areas, underlines the importance of a good festive season to vendors: “It’s critical because it’s an opportunity for us to make as much money as we can before January, when sales drop off by 60 or 70 per cent.”

Bad weather is not only uncomfortable for sellers, it affects footfall. “It’s cold and getting wet – weather-wise, it’s not the most fun time of the year to be selling,” acknowledges Paul. “People don’t want to spend time out on the street chatting, they just want to get to their destination.”

“A few years back, during the ‘Beast From The East’, when the weather was really bad, we had something called The Big Challenge. Workers at banks and law firms joined us for a day to experience what it’s like selling on the streets. The weather was crazy, and the majority of the public were just walking by. These people were going, ‘Why are you even out here today?’ And you’re like, ‘It’s what we do everyday’.”

“For two years, London was like a ghost town… tourists are just starting to come back and with the new way of working, Mondays and Fridays are quieter.”

Pau Logan, Big Issue Vendor

Recent years have seen hard times get harder and the high street has suffered, another factor that could affect sales. “For two years, London was like a ghost town,” reflects Paul. “Tourists are just starting to come back and with the new way of working, Mondays and Fridays are quieter. Now we’re being hit with this inflationary crunch and the price of everything is going up. That’s gonna affect our numbers as well.”

There is a hope that the difficult times ahead for all of us may bring people’s charitable urges into focus. Holly agrees: “I hope it goes that way. And not the other way. Because there is a risk that people are watching their spending. Then the high street is quieter year-on-year, and, with Covid, people have moved to online shopping, which hugely impacts our vendors.”

Making a huge difference

Faced with so many challenges, the work our frontline staff do can be critical to vendors. Paul is keen to emphasise how supportive they are: “We’ve got some excellent people on our frontline staff. They’re accessible, they’re committed, they’re sold on the plan to deal with homelessness and they care. That really makes a difference – it’s not somebody coming in and punching the clock. They want to make a difference.”

And Holly – who features in a new short film highlighting why our vans are so important to Big Issue vendors (watch here) – says our new Citroën electric vans have already made a huge difference in terms of the care staff can give vendors. They really are supporting our partnership’s mission of Driving Change for Good.

“This is my 15th Christmas working for the Big Issue. And these vans are the best we have ever had. They’re reliable and the tech is really good – now we can connect our phones to the vans and have a screen with a sat nav on, that’s a game changer. 

“These vans are our offices, we work from them pretty much all the time. And it makes such a huge difference that they’re so comfortable and smooth to drive.

“It’s quite a special thing to many of the vendors, because we’re going directly to them. They show us their commitment to being part of the organisation by selling the magazine and in return, we’re making it as easy as possible for them to get magazines and support. The electric vans make that so much easier.” 

Find out more at https://www.citroen.co.uk/the-big-issue-partnership.html

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Every copy counts this Christmas

Your local vendor is at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis this Christmas. Prices of energy and food are rising rapidly. As is the cost of rent. All at their highest rate in 40 years. Vendors are amongst the most vulnerable people affected. Support our vendors to earn as much as they can and give them a fighting chance this Christmas.

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