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Vendors of The Big Issue get chance to profit from cashless society

By Earle Gale in London | China Daily UK | Updated: 2018-12-03 22:40

The United Kingdom-based international charity The Big Issue is equipping some of its street-corner vendors with contactless card readers in response to changing trends that mean many people now leave their wallets at home and few carry "spare change".

The organization says people wanting to support the charity, which helps the homeless, called for the move.

The Big Issue, which was founded in London in 1991 and which now operates on four continents, lets homeless vendors earn money by selling its eponymous magazine.

Russell Blackman, managing director of The Big Issue, said: "We have long-recognized that we are operating in an increasingly cashless society. Big Issue vendors are micro-entrepreneurs, effectively running their own small businesses, so, understandably, there are many who are keen to respond to market forces and offer their customers an alternative to cash."

The organization is partnering with contactless payments provider iZettle on the eight-week trial that involves 20 vendors in London, Bath, Birmingham, Bristol and Nottingham. If all goes well, the program will be rolled out nationwide. One challenge is the need for vendors to have a bank account and the requirement from banks that people must have a fixed address before they can to open an account. The Big Issue is working with vendors and the banks to try to find a solution.

"The partnership between iZettle and The Big Issue reflects our shared values and commitment to creating a more financially-inclusive society, supporting those whose lives have been blighted by poverty and a lack of opportunity," Blackman said.

iZettle says more than 70 percent of payments in the UK are now cashless and the partnership means homeless vendors of The Big Issue will not miss out.

Easton Christian, a vendor who sells the magazine in London's White City district, is taking part in the trial and told the charity's website: "I've definitely noticed a dip in the number of people carrying cash, which has had a knock-on effect on the number of magazines that I'm able to sell."

Edward Hallett, the UK managing director of Swedish company iZettle, said: "We're constantly looking at ways we can aid financial inclusion … Our partnership ensures that vendors never have to miss out on a sale again."

The Guardian newspaper reports cash payments are becoming increasingly less common. In 2006, 62 percent of UK transactions involved cash but the number fell to 40 percent last year and is expected to further dip, to 21 percent in 2026.

The multinational credit card and payment services provider Barclaycard warned last year that charities may be missing out on more than 80 million pounds annually by not being sufficiently open to cashless donations.

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