The Big Issue is to be available in supermarkets and other stores from Thursday for the first time in its 29-year history in a move aimed at supporting vendors not able to sell it on the streets.
Sainsbury’s will stock the magazine in hundreds of stores and online, while McColl’s will sell it in 1,400 stores across the UK.
Vendors were told to stop selling the magazine last month because of the coronavirus crisis, with people urged to take out a subscription so funds could continue to be given to them.
Lord John Bird, founder of the Big Issue, said: “We have helped well over 100,000 people over the past 29 years, and on average we put £5 million into the pockets of our vendors every single year. Now, more than ever, we need your support.
“Our income comes from street sales and without our vendors on the streets we cannot support those people that really need us now and in the future.
“We are thrilled that the good folk at Sainsbury’s and McColl’s have partnered with us so that readers new and old can continue to buy the Big Issue during this turbulent time, with 50% of the net proceeds going to supporting our vendors.”
Lord Bird told the PA news agency that many people bought the Big Issue because of the vendors on the streets, but he hoped the new venture with supermarkets and stores would help retain sales, and therefore financial support.
Big Issue editor Paul McNamee said it had been a “remarkable effort” to change the sales model of the magazine so quickly, so that funds can continue to be given to vendors.
“When this is all over, our vendors will need more support, and we need to be here for them,” he said.
Paul Mills-Hicks, commercial director at Sainsbury’s, 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.”
McColl’s chief executive Jonathan Miller said: “We urge our customers to lend their help by buying copies of the magazine available at our stores to help the organisation’s street vendors who will be struggling to make a living as people stay at home amid the coronavirus outbreak.”