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Press Release

Big Issue partners with giffgaff to give vendors phones to increase cashless payments

Giff Gaff App / Big Issue Pictured Big Issue vendor Daniel Novac on his pitch at Tesco in Wishaw , North Lanarkshire Scotland ©Exposure Photo Agency

  • giffgaff is providing 250 refurbished phones to new magazine vendors
  • This is the Big Issue’s first ever phone partnership with a mobile network
  • Phones will be equipped with Near Field Communication technology, meaning vendors can take cashless payments directly using a smartphone, without the need for an additional card reader

Today (Monday 27th November), giffgaff is providing the Big Issue with 250 refurbished phones, which the organisation’s frontline teams are distributing to new vendors, enabling them to increase their cashless sales.

This will be the Big Issue’s first ever phone partnership with a mobile network, and the first time that vendors will have access to phones equipped with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, meaning they can take cashless payments directly using a smartphone, without the need for an additional card reader. This will make sales smoother and easier for vendors – as well as making it quicker and more secure for Big Issue customers to buy from them.

The partnership with giffgaff builds on the Big Issue’s existing work to support vendors with cashless transactions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the organisation’s frontline teams started supplying vendors with card readers, allowing them to continue selling the magazine in line with health guidelines.

It also helped them get up to speed with an increasingly cashless society, which saw 17 billion contactless payments made in the UK last year[1] and 87% of people using contactless technology at least once a month[2]. A government briefing earlier this year also revealed 74% of people in the UK use cash only occasionally or rarely[3].

Vendors quickly saw results when they started offering customers this fuss-free payment option. In an average week, they sold five more magazines, adding up to £520 per year in additional earnings.

The refurbished phones supplied by giffgaff will replace existing handset and card reader combinations, helping vendors to make faster, easier payments, and increase their sales even more.

As with much of the Big Issue’s work, the benefits aren’t just financial. Digital exclusion – the form of social inequality that affects people who don’t have internet access – often goes hand-in-hand with poverty. According to a 2022 Ofcom report[4], it’s highest among people like our vendors, who are in low socio-economic groups. Having access to technology like smartphones is proven to help people affected by poverty, by increasing their connectivity while upping their skills and confidence.

“We’ve all been in situations where people have been trying to sell us the Big Issue and there’s an awkward moment when you realise you haven’t got any cash, because a lot of us don’t carry it anymore,” says Ash Schofield, CEO of giffgaff. “So, by providing phones through this partnership, we help to remove that barrier.” The partnership is steeped in shared values around connection, accessibility and sustainability. “We’re trying to make connectivity through mobile as accessible as possible, because fundamentally it’s the right thing to do.”

A Big Issue vendor who is now able to take contactless payments is Marsilia Cimpeanu, who sells the magazine outside Waitrose in Winchmore Hill, North London. “I’ve seen a big difference in my sales, because a lot of people don’t have cash on them as much as they used to,” she says of her experience taking contactless payments. “It’s more convenient and secure. I can ask customers if they want a receipt via email, and when you tell them that, you give them a sense of security. I think it’s very useful for vendors and for customers.

“Once they see that they have that security and trust, they can come back to buy the Big Issue with you if they don’t have any cash, or if they want to continue using contactless because they prefer it. It saves time.”

Russell Blackman, MD of the Big Issue, said: “The pre-Christmas period is always busy for the Big Issue, with more and more vendors signing up to sell the magazine, and sales dramatically increasing. On these cold, dark days, we know our customers want to support vendors by buying the magazine, whilst also wanting it to be as quick and easy as possible. That’s why this winter, Big Issue is partnering with giffgaff to help vendors become cashless, connected and technologically confident – while also ensuring you don’t have to spend time in the cold digging through your wallet.”

He added: “In line with our commitment to digital and financial training, the Big Issue plans to work together with giffgaff to continue improving vendors’ confidence and competence with their new phones.”

You can support by buying a magazine from a vendor in the street, subscribing online, making a financial contribution or buying a Big Issue Working Winter Support Kit for £34.99 at      bigissue.com/christmas.  


[1]https://www.ukfinance.org.uk/news-and-insight/press-release/half-all-payments-now-made-using-debit-cards#:~:text=Across%20both%20debit%20and%20credit,a%20month%20or%20more%20frequently

[2]https://www.ukfinance.org.uk/news-and-insight/press-release/half-all-payments-now-made-using-debit-cards#:~:text=Across%20both%20debit%20and%20credit,a%20month%20or%20more%20frequently

[3]https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-8570/

[4]https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0022/234364/digital-exclusion-review-2022.pdf

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
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