The Big Issue is to go on sale in supermarkets for the first time in an effort to make money for vendors left without income during the coronavirus outbreak.
The magazine, normally sold on the street by homeless people, is to be sold in selected Sainsbury’s and McColl’s stores after sales were paused on 22 March to protect the health of its vendors.
John Bird, who set up the Big Issue 29 years ago, said: “The future of the magazine is at risk if we don’t get £60,000 through subscriptions for the magazine or digital issues. If we don’t get that within a month or two we will have nothing, as all our income comes from the street sellers. We have never built up large banks of money, and all the money raised has gone back to the product.”
He added: “For health reasons we stopped selling it on the streets the weekend before last and we have been campaigning to turn the magazine into a digital magazine or one you can buy through subscription or at supermarkets and newsagents.”
Lord Bird said the plan was still to give 50% of profit to homeless vendors. “Up until now we have worked on the premise that people work for money. It’s a hand up, not a hand down, but we have had to suspend that. With the world heading for handouts, we need to make sure those we work with also get handouts.”
Bird said the money would be given to homeless vendors around the country, and the organisation was trying to track down around 500 sellers. It has already been in contact with 1,000 individuals.
“It will take longer for the vendors to get money than it normally would, but it will start to flow once the system is up and running. At the moment we are building the system,” he said.
Customers will be able to purchase copies in 164 Sainsbury’s stores initially, extending to 315 over the coming weeks, and 1,430 McColl’s stores, for the price of £3. The Big Issue is also going to be launching an app.
“You can also buy a magazine online or subscribe for three months whilst your vendor isn’t on the street,” Bird added.
Paul Mills-Hicks, Sainsbury’s commercial director, said: “We are proud to be supporting a cause as important as The Big Issue Group, which exists to offer homeless people, or individuals at risk of becoming homeless, the opportunity to earn an income. Coronavirus has affected everyone in the UK, and it’s important that we show our support for each other in these increasingly challenging times.
“We hope that by providing a means for our customers to purchase a copy of the Big Issue, we can encourage people to continue to buy the magazine, which so many vulnerable people rely on.”
Since the Big Issue launched in 1991, more than 200 million copies have been sold by more than 100,000 vulnerable people.
— to www.theguardian.com