A BIG Issue seller in Bristol is pioneering a new way for vendors to raise awareness and increase income and support.
Jack Richardson, who sells the magazine outside Bird & Blend Tea in Park Street, is one of the first ten vendors in the country to offer a new digital initiative to his customers. A personalised QR code on his lanyard allows customers to share details of his pitch and his story to boost his earnings.
Big Issue sellers buy magazines for £2 and sell them on for £4. Customers can also subscribe with a vendor online, which provides vital additional regular income.
Jack said a lot of people thought vendors were given the magazines free.
“They ask how many you can get a day and that. But that’s definitely got better than it used to be, there’s a lot more awareness. I very much see it as a business in fact. I’m an ethical microbusiness – and I believe in the product which is a real advantage.”
Jack spoke about what selling the magazine means to him: “A lot of the help that you’re given when you’re in a powerless situation is by its very nature infantilising. The Big Issue isn’t like that, you are given support but in an empowering way!”
He added: “I like being given the flexibility and ownership that selling the Big Issue gives me. I have various mental health problems which means it really helps to be in control of the work I do. With the Big Issue I can decide what hours I need to work.”
Speaking about his customers and his pitch, Jack said: “My little spot on Park Street has become my niche. People there can be incredibly generous, there was an older lady who I knew from there, who unbeknown to me was very ill, we used to speak to each other quite a bit. Over the lockdowns, I lost track of her, but about two months after the last one had finished, her daughter came and found me to explain she had sadly died during lockdown, but that she looked through her diary, and in between many sad entries there were these happy ones where she explained she had spoken to me that day.”
He continued: “I had told her my wife was agoraphobic and loved playing computer games and right at the end of her diary she had left an envelope with £200 in specifically so I could by my wife a PlayStation 4. I was blown away, it’s amazing to have been a part of someone’s life like that. Her daughter has stayed in touch with me since too!”
On the digital initiative, Jack explained: “I’m always in favour of trying out new technologies and seeing how they work. I’ve already had a couple of customers who’ve put it up on their social media. That’s the thing about QR codes, they are so easy to share and I have a lot of young customers here who very much engage in these new technologies.”
He concluded: “But yeah, this last eight or nine years, I’ve been the most settled and definitely the happiest of my entire adult life. And that is in no small part down to the stability that the Big Issue gives me. I mean I even met my wife through the Big Issue.”
Lord Bird, Founder of the Big Issue Group, said: “We are urging you to help boost your local vendor’s income by scanning their personalised QR code to share the vendor’s story and subscribe.”
To subscribe visit www.bigissue.com/boost-vendor-earnings .